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MetaFilter is now neither meta nor a filter
September 22, 2001 11:03 PM   Subscribe

MetaFilter is now neither meta nor a filter. Discuss.
posted by jkottke to MetaFilter-Related at 11:03 PM (141 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

everyday I think about shutting down the site more and more.

there are a million possible things I could do to try and improve the site, or at least get it somewhat back on track. I think there are a few small things that can get us back at some normalcy, but in the long run, there's just too many people here.

the site has definitely grown beyond what it was designed for.

In the midst of all the salvage plans, I've been wondering about slash-and-burn ideas. I'd liken the site to a old house that needs lots of repair. Should we redo the foundation, spackle the hell out of every wall, and repaint? Or level the fucker and start over with a more modern design?

What if I killed it sometime in the future, and brought it back, but you had to pay a small membership fee or some other 'high' barrier to entry? That'd keep the crowd small, manageable, and only those that really cared to discuss things would contribute. Would that make things better? Worse? It'd essentially be starting over.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:02 AM on September 23, 2001 [13 favorites]


I've lamented silently about the death of MF for a little over a month or two now. Slowly, people here have decided that they need to get a post onto the front page once a week, and need to respond to every thread (even if they don't have anything of any consequence to say). All this started well before the events of last Tuesday -- the number of double-posts was steadily increasing, as was the number of daily posts on the front page -- but sadly, the World Trade Center horror has led to this place being nearly unreadable.

Every single article about WTC appears here (e.g., loss of the filter). Every single editorial gets a front-page post. People feel that self-link posts are all-of-a-sudden OK; likewise, no-link posts seem to have passed into the realm of acceptable to many people (e.g., loss of the meta). It's a morass.

What to do? There are really only two options: shut everything down, or implement a self-policing force to help keep things from getting out of hand (yeah, I know it's too late, but it may be possible to restore some normalcy a bit and then police from there). And when people get upset about their posts being deleted, tell 'em that it's now a community where things like that can happen when someone with power decides that they should. Encourage them to go set up their own site, where they can implement their own rules. If the choice is to shut down, then trying the other option for a week or two can't hurt that much.

As for the idea of a future pay system, I'd be all for that, but I think that it would end up weeding out a lot of people whose input I've valued here over the history of the site. That being said, I don't know if such a plan would dilute the quality or not; that would pretty much be something that we could only determine in retrospect.
posted by delfuego at 12:13 AM on September 23, 2001 [1 favorite]


the site has definitely grown beyond what it was designed for.

There's a lot of disagreement on what this site is for or the proper way to use it. Your hands off approach probably hurts more than it helps. Its easy to point someone to the guidelines, but that's just one page essentially saying pick a good link, don't self-link, and don't troll. What is mathowie's vision of a functional Metafilter? Inquiring minds want to know!
posted by skallas at 12:24 AM on September 23, 2001


I should clarify. In general, this place has been really good the first few days after the attacks. I was really impressed with everyone on the day of.

...but since then, and the preceding months it's all so exhausting to me. It takes a lot of time, and it's not like I'm getting much fun out of it anymore. I hear ten complaints to each compliment these days, and I guess the two years and several months since I started working on the site has caught up with me finally. Everyone that knows me says "I can't believe you're still doing it." After hearing that statement for almost a year now, I'm starting to think about it. What's the point?

A lot of people are still getting something out of the site. I remember when I visited slashdot several times a day, everyday. And then at some point in 1999, I gave up. But still, thousands of people call it home today. I'd hate to leave those people out in the cold.

I don't know what the best solution is to anything, and I've tried to be careful in any change or modification I've made here. Perhaps I've been dragging my feet on ratings/moderation/categories (categories were in the database from the first day, I just never hooked them up because I couldn't think of every possible category) so long that things have gone from bad to worse in that time.

Does anyone want to take over? Would anyone on earth be interested in buying it as a property? I'll probably be out of work soon, and the last thing I want to do is waste my time shooing bad people away and rebuilding code when I should be finding a new job.

Bleah. It's late, and I'm tired.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:33 AM on September 23, 2001


I forgot the mention the newuser page, but that still suffers from interpretation in some ways.
posted by skallas at 12:37 AM on September 23, 2001


Your hands off approach probably hurts more than it helps.

Actually, aside from my points above, I think in general it's a good approach, since it allows people some freedom.

What is mathowie's vision of a functional Metafilter? Inquiring minds want to know!

It's pretty obvious what is "good" and "not so good" these days on the site. In the past two weeks, I can recall three threads (I can't read more than half of them anymore -- that's definitely a sign something's wrong).

the very first wtc thread was good. very good. everyone was concerned and sharing information. it was good.

then, the beer thread, and the cocktail thread. It tended towards the chummy clubhouse feel, which isn't normal, but it was everyone sharing stuff, links, info, jokes, and it was almost completely free of tangents or arguments or anything besides productive information.

How many "good" threads are there a week these days? Two? Ten? Maybe one a day, tops?

How many were "good" a year ago? Maybe twice that rate? Or more?

I hate to turn it back into a "it used to be sooo much better man!" meme, because that's a dead horse and it trivializes the recent good contributing members of the site. But, recently, there hasn't been too much worth getting excited about, worth sharing about. I guess I just wish it were generally "good" more often than it is currently.

If it wasn't already obvious, let it be known that running a community for any length of time is a tremendous pain in the ass (I don't mean the members, but the planning, the admin stuff, the execution, the dealing with problems, the dealing with loads and growth, etc, etc. etc.).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:43 AM on September 23, 2001 [1 favorite]


I've only been here a short time - lurked a little, trying to get a feel for how things work - and then finally signed up. Although I can't compare to what it was like "way back when" since I wasn't here, I would encourage you to keep the site going. The premise of the site is great and I do see self-policing going on. Several times there have been comments about multiple posts, slack links, and stupid trolls.

Matt, why not empower a few of the "old-timers" to help out in moderating? That would definitely take some pressure off of you and they would be able to maintain the integrity of the site and keep things clean.

I don't know how long the down-slide has been going on, but I think with a few diligent people helping out, you could get the site back to where you originally intended.
posted by cyniczny at 1:00 AM on September 23, 2001


Kill it, and replace it with something where users have to be approved, perhaps by the existing membership. Where one deliberate act of violation results in a permanent ban for that member. Where posting a front page thread is a paying privilege.

And no moderation, the interface and overhead of such systems compromise the discussion, and are part of the reason behind the ugliness of sites like Slashdot. Categories, I'm not averse to, they could simply be suggested by members in a new MetaTalk area where an x% positive vote results in their adoption.

There could be a system where, instead of moderation, a group of people who, in Matt's sole judgement, have a good sense of the ethic and mindset of the siite could share in some of the administrative tasks. Perhaps two votes by this group could result in a thread's deletion or a user's censure, or could decide the level of posting privilege of a user. This privilege level could decide the frequency with which that user gets to comment.

I don't know the answer, but I'd rather see MeFi be shut down than whimper along. Maybe the existing site could be kept for the apparently majority who are satisfied with it, but they should certainly be the lower priority for Matt's time and effort.
posted by anildash at 1:01 AM on September 23, 2001 [1 favorite]


Oh, and a lot more threads and posts would be subject to deletion. So that there would only be 5 to 10 threads a day, each with only as many posts as were relevant, usually fewer than 20.
posted by anildash at 1:06 AM on September 23, 2001


Matt.
I'm a new user so maybe I don't have the right to comment, but...
You have created an amazing Internet success story. In the 2.5 years you have been running this thing, you've picked up over 10 thousand people, if not more, depending on how you count. MeFi has become an "It" place to spend time at, and tho that may make you somewhat sad, it should also make you happy.
Some things find a life of their own, grow and mature and turn into something else. I know that your concerns for quality are valid. MeFi had a lot of quality that you and a number of people respected and looked forward to. It has changed, morphed into something bigger that many people think still has quality.

If you still wish to continue, I, for one would appreciate it. If you don't, I also understand.
I have some solutions, if you like.
1-kick all but a select few out, and restart.
2-change the style of Mefi, to something like Backwash where the responsibilities lie with a number of people.
3-sell it--I guarantee you that you have some hot property and that somebody will buy.
4-make the membership an invite-only kind of thing.
5-anildash has made some good suggestions

No matter what you do, remember that MeFi has become important, and that you have done a great job with it.


posted by ashbury at 1:29 AM on September 23, 2001 [1 favorite]


how about this.

metafilter is a community, or so some profess. what are essential characteristics of communities? well, there are places to live; things to see; people to talk to. all of these exist in metafilter.

in a normal community, however, there's something else that metafilter lacks. there are a finite number of rooms in a dorm; a finite number of houses on a block. people move in; others move out. the community is fixed in its size -- at least, its maximum size -- but is fluid, nonetheless.

let's change the user system. let's change it so that there is a limit on who can be active -- that is, who can participate in threads and who can post.

let's say that there are 20 slots available for posters, and you need to occupy one of those slots to actually post a thread. you may stay in that slot for a while -- maybe a number of hours, maybe a day -- but you can only post once or twice at most. after that fixed time, you are not active any longer, and you need to wait your turn. (maybe, after a number of hours after you become inactive, you can try to become reactive.)

do posting comments need a similar system? i'm not sure. but i think that implementing some sort of queue system for posting links would definitely keep the volume to a much more managable level. i really appreciate metafilter, matt, and i appreciate the work you've done very much. i can't host metafilter, but if i can do anything to help (i am currently employed as a database programmer) with the system, please let me know.
posted by moz at 1:30 AM on September 23, 2001


I continue to believe a categorization system would help a lot, where each front-page post would be assigned a category (by the poster) and individual users could select which categories they wish to view. (For serendipity, there should also be a checkbox for "surprise me" that occasionally shows you threads in categories you normally don't view.)
posted by kindall at 2:32 AM on September 23, 2001


delete everything. start over. pay for play.

“level the fucker.”
posted by raaka at 3:12 AM on September 23, 2001


Nothing ever works on the first try. Just ask the Wright Brothers. Or Dave Eggers. Or your first girlfriend.
posted by raaka at 3:18 AM on September 23, 2001


It's all about the people here. Not terribly clever or insightful, I know, but that's what brings me back every day, repeatedly.

Even if the answer is raze it to the ground, think of it as Betafilter and build MeFi II out of the ashes, as long as all or most of the folks who make this place what it is now (in it's great moments) come back, then the New Improved UberMetaThingy will be A Good Thingy.

As long as it's not too difficult for new blood to join the gang...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:38 AM on September 23, 2001


At $179 per user x 11,873 users = $2,125,267.

Perhaps not the most accurate way of assessing the monetary value of MeFi, but plenty businesses are valued in similar ways.
posted by johnny novak at 3:58 AM on September 23, 2001


Hmm. Sounds like collective web-worker weltschmerz to me.

Understandable, of course:
Ephemeral, often lackluster jobs...
Rockstar-to-roadie self-esteem...
And the spreading shadow of 9.11 - like a chest X-ray that comes back positive...

But I still like MetaFilter. My fondness for it has decrescendoed, as has my fascination with all things web, but it isn't circling the drain.

I guess I missed the golden epoch everyone is always raving about. MeFi still seems pretty spectacular to me, especially relative to its alternatives. I like to hang crepe as much as anybody, but MeFi remains my favourite and most regularly visited site.

Maybe if someone could explain, using specifics, why this place is suddenly Edvard Munch on a bad day...?
posted by Opus Dark at 5:23 AM on September 23, 2001


Matt, you don't owe any one of us anything. There is no obligation to keep running MetaFilter if it has become a heavy stone around your neck. If you're not having fun anymore, find something else to do.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:46 AM on September 23, 2001


• Block all links to big news sites. If people want to post news, at least force them to find unusual sources.

• Make the number of threads and comments you can post each week a function of the number of months you have been here. Make the highest numbers, even for the old-timers, quite low. No one should post more than one link a day, and no one should make more than two or three comments in a single thread. Make people focus everything into a few good posts.

• Demote some people and promote others, and make the decisions entirely your own, according to your own secret rules. Be as arbitrary as you like. Shape the site by shaping the user base.
posted by pracowity at 6:08 AM on September 23, 2001 [1 favorite]


If you'd asked me last week what to do, I'd never suggest killing MeFi, but the cam-kids stuff has me pretty spooked.

Random thoughts on both stides of the debate:

1. I've always thought it ridiculous for Matt to have to work for a living, when he has all of us. For him not to make money off of this site is ridiculous. If just 5% of the current membership agreed to pay $7.95 per month, it would bring in over $55,000 /year. Maybe not enough to live the high life in San Francisco, but it's a living.

However...

2. If MeFi closes down for any significant length of time, I think many of the core members will be lost forever. We may think we'll be back...but how many of us have friends from college we swore we'd keep in touch with?

I honestly think MeFi Pro would be the answer. It might save the community. But MeFi Pro isn't coming. I hate to touch on a sensitive subject, but the parallels to "blogger pro" are evident.

I really, really, really want Metafilter to stay open, but I can't guarantee how long I'll feel that way if things get any worse.
posted by jpoulos at 6:16 AM on September 23, 2001


Steven's right; You don't owe us anything, Matt. But if there's anything that would make this place fun for you again, please try it before shutting down.

You've built something really remarkable here! Lots of other websites have similar technical functionality, but there's not another community quite like this one. Even if the quality has declined, Metafilter still has no serious competition anywhere else on the web. That's an accomplishment to be proud of!
posted by gd779 at 6:42 AM on September 23, 2001


One of the mailing lists I'm on (the related web site of which is considered a blog, for some bizarre reason) had a period of crisis when it was "open" to new members, who hogged the discussion and alienated the oldbies. Who created a new mailing list in secret, waited for the newbies to get bored and go away, then reclaimed their creation as a "closed" list, where new members have be approved by everyone else. It's cruel, but it works.

But we feel your pain, Matt. Kill it, and if you want to bring it back, I'm sure the support will be there. And if you don't, thanks for all the fish.
posted by holgate at 6:56 AM on September 23, 2001


Matt, the article you wrote about community mentioned the importance of Moderators, why aren't there any here?

As for good post-bad post, I think you should take the head on a spike approach. Instead of deleting it, highlight the thread (bgcolor), & close it.

You could also highlight good frontpage posts, nothing more than a different bgcolor as a way to call it out from the crowd.

Also, I would pay $7.95 (or a discounted $80 a year) to be a member of MeFi.
posted by Mick at 7:56 AM on September 23, 2001


Not sure which way the wind is going to blow on this debate, but can we look at some immediate simple measures? I'm not singling out Postroad here, but he and others have been on a two post per day tear, making the front page about as easy to navigate as the Afgani minefields we seem to be so interested in discussing these days. One post per day per user is fine by me, otherwise get your own damn blog. I've posted twice a day once, but now I think we are beyond that being practical. Thoughts?
posted by machaus at 7:59 AM on September 23, 2001


slash and burn, salt the earth, & let me know when I need to give you my credit card number so we can rebuild. that camgirl thread gives me the heebie jeebies, and the best way to treat diarrhea is to flush the system.
posted by thc at 8:15 AM on September 23, 2001


I'm thinking the best way right now is to cap the new users by making a 1 month total wait period. They can't comment or anything until the month is up, then they have to respond to an email to activate it.

Also one day just be ruthless and destroy every thread dealing with the WTC and any plain bad thread. Be merciless, destroy anything that just even bugs you. People will learn.
posted by geoff. at 9:36 AM on September 23, 2001


Matt, Going through the motions on behalf of someone else in any kind of relationship (job, friend, family, partner and I should imagine, running a community weblog) in life can become a heavy burden. What one once found endearing about it becomes excruciating. What once was funny now just seems annoying. Ultimately, what was a fun endeavour begins to feel more like a daily chore. Don't feel compelled to continue doing something that you no longer enjoy doing.

I'd prefer it if you didn't, but if you want to get shot of MeFi, it is not up to me or anyone else.

[crap mining analogy]

Perhaps there are still diamonds in the sh*t here, even if the current crop are discoloured by the surroundings, but if you don't want dig anymore, don't. Close down the mine or sell the rights.

I'd be back if you open up a new seam and I'd pay for the privilege to be there.

[/crap mining analogy]

(and I mean crap as in "not that good")
posted by davehat at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2001


I would definitely like to see Mefi stay around, and I strongly think the idea of "Mefi Deputies" who are entrusted to follow along the site guidelines would go a looong way to maintaing the tone, along with email verification and a longer waiting limit for posting (see CamKiddieInvasion 2001).
posted by owillis at 10:27 AM on September 23, 2001


mathowie: Does anyone want to take over?

I do. It's a great community that means a lot to a global audience of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Interesting people meet here 'round the clock. The media loves it. Friendships are formed here. Running it would be a community service. I could become a microstar like Carl Steadman!

I'm not mentioning all of these things to actually persuade you to hand it over, though. I just think there are still plenty of reasons to envy and appreciate the person who runs MetaFilter -- Kottke's negative assessment be damned. No offense, but he's had a love/hate relationship with the place for almost as long as it has been around. Noisy, boisterous sites open to public participation from thousands of members aren't for everyone.

(If they really aren't for you anymore, Matt, there's no shame in changing the place to something you would like more.)
posted by rcade at 10:31 AM on September 23, 2001


Matt – if the problem is the ratio of quality to junk, then it’s simple. When resources are free, people will treat them as though they have no value. Give everybody a bank account on the number of posts they can make. If once you posted a link, you would have to wait 3 months to post another one, people will start trying to make their one post a quarter count.

The news story posts and current events would practically disappear. Can you imagine the shame of getting one post a quarter and having everybody slag it for being a double post? You sure wouldn't do it more than once. People would do their research, wait in eager anticipation for their 3 months to end so they can post that really great gem they’ve found.

You may need to look at limiting comments in some way as well, but I'd say start with the you get 1 post per X period and see how it goes.

posted by willnot at 11:08 AM on September 23, 2001


Whatever happened to Metafocus or whatever that deeper-writing spinoff was going to be called? Seems like it might be more interesting (and maybe more helpful to MeFi) in this environment than ever before.

Anyway, if it ever actually does get down to you saying "Fuck it" and just walking away from it, Matt, then I agree you should try to give it to Rogers or something rather than just closing it down. I'd rather have a wacky meandering MeFi than no MeFi at all.

Though I think you'd be nuts to shut it down OR dump it, ESPECIALLY if you think you're going to get laid off again soon. Don't you realize how friggin' cool this looks on your resume? And that the more recent the press clips, the cooler it is?
posted by aaron at 11:44 AM on September 23, 2001


Though I think you'd be nuts to shut it down OR dump it, ESPECIALLY if you think you're going to get laid off again soon. Don't you realize how friggin' cool this looks on your resume? And that the more recent the press clips, the cooler it is?

I think it generally opens doors for me, but there's not a lot of jobs where the skills presented here translate well to the real working world.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:03 PM on September 23, 2001


time out is good. re-entry fees are good. if we find that the re-entry fees present a barrier to people we really want around, we can offer a few "gift memberships" a month or something - i dunno. all i know is that i would love it if you were happier doing this, matt, because you used to be, and without that, there's no reason for you to keep this going.
posted by judith at 12:17 PM on September 23, 2001


How about modelling Metafilter v2 on the WELL, so the bulk of the website would be walled off to paying subscribers with perhaps one area or category to which all people could post?
posted by adrianhon at 12:28 PM on September 23, 2001


There's a hot tub, somewhere in the East Bay, that's accessible through a passcode on a door. The owner of the hot tub let a few friends know the passcode, and they pass it along to people they trust, and so on. Eventually, it gets out of hand--neighbors complain about noise, trash is not picked up, etc. And so the owner changes the passcode. And tells a few friends. And it starts again.

Maybe MetaFilter needs to be "hot tubbed."

A few (four?) years ago, the NoEnd mailing list (an San Francisco-based list for web developers), experienced a similar phenomenon. It was an open list, and had grown too popular for its own good. The signal to noise ratio was low, and newbies didn't take the time to understand the list's dynamic.

So, the list's owners, along with a selected group of "old guard," decided to shut it down. And they moved it to another server, and told a few friends about it, and it started up again. And the only way on to NoEnd know is through invitation--you have to know someone on the list to get in.

Yes, it's elitist, yes, it probably discourages certain outsider opinions, but, by-and-large, the system works, maintaining the integrity of the community.


posted by peterme at 12:33 PM on September 23, 2001


Matt, if you created an online survey that was prefaced by the feature set that would be available within MeFi Pro and the timeframe it would take to develop it, I think you'd be very surprised both by the amount of people that would express interest in subscribing, and by the monthly rate they would be willing to pay.
posted by machaus at 12:39 PM on September 23, 2001


I'm with Machaus: if you're considering going to a subscription service at all, take a serious look at it and do a survey. This is a valuable community for many people, myself included, and if you attached a $$ amount to that value I wouldn't argue. I don't think MeFi-ers would view it the way everyone views Salon Premium (with much mockery and indifference).

Don't make me go to Plastic! I don't wanna go to Plastic! PLEASE don't make me go! I'm scared... hold me...
posted by arco at 12:50 PM on September 23, 2001


How about two-tiers (and respective pay-schemes): one, somehow selected posters; and two, readers. Or pay-per-post (charges accumulate monthly to accounts).

Matt, one of the 3-digit oldbies recommended MeFi to me a few months ago. You (and this community) built a great site. I hope it continues in some form. Thanks.
posted by spandex at 1:04 PM on September 23, 2001


does anyone else find this thread really upsetting?

Obviously everyone here cares a lot about this site. That's a pretty good start, no matter how you look at it.

I lurked for a couple months before registering when I felt a need to post on the WTC stuff. This site has been invaluable to me. And I think its openness to new voices is vital.

Yes, that openness creates problems -- high front-page posts counts and inane comments. And the sheer number of people starts to overwhelm the site owner.

What to do.

I've also thought about Kindall's suggestion of splitting posts by category. There seems to be a big split between news posts and Web-link posts. But maybe news posts don't really belong here at all, except very exceptionally. Esp. given matt's remarks about which threads he's liked in the past couple weeks. Eliminating news posts would reduce much of the flak, as well as a number of double posts and plain dumb comments; it would also be a step back towards being both meta and fliter. (Personally, I would miss being able to discuss news items with this community, but I could deal.)

Even if MeFi can be refocused, of course, the problem of sheer number of users will eventually return. I truly hope MeFi will never become a closed society. Maybe the entrance price does need to be higher. I think new users should always be able to comment -- participation is the whole point, isn't it? But rights for posting new links could be given more selectively. Maybe users who have posted 25 comments would earn the (revokable) right to post 2 links/week? (forgive the "uptalk"?)

As for money, argh. The community thing to do would be to post a donations page, the way nonprofits do. Post a list of givers, within different donation ranges. Write on top of the page: "These people keep MeFi alive. Do you?"

As for subscriptions or hot-tubbing, they may be necessary, I agree. It would suck (my take as a newbie, though the old-guard types probably wouldn't mind so much), but maybe that's the only way to protect the site's quality.

These are (I think) the MeFi issues. There remains the mathowie-specific issue. To that I say, Matt, I for one will have no complaints about anything you need to do to make this site rewarding and fun for yourself again.

Thank you, good night, and God Bless America.

;)
posted by mattpfeff at 1:13 PM on September 23, 2001


Matt,

I reckon you don't need Metafilter to open doors for jobs, Metafilter can be your job. Write a business case (yes I know this all sounds very 1999) and work out if it can be done.

I would guess with subs and some advertising (personally I can deal with ads if they help support a good site) you could make enough to sustain yourself (no we're not talking boo.com, et al.), but with 1,000,000 page impressions per month and growing and a loyal group of unique users I reckon this is possible.

I ran a commercial site over the last couple of years - last year we were running at about 3 million page impressions per month and I made £250,000 in ad revenues in the year. Our CPM was good and the ad industry has fallen off a cliff of late, however, I think that Metafilter has the potential to keep you in the manner to which you have become accustomed.




posted by johnny novak at 1:16 PM on September 23, 2001


This is a discussion I've had before and am happy to have again.

1. I'm for keeping a Metafilter, of any kind.

2. Many of the solutions here require more programming on Matt's part, forcing him to spend more time on something that's not fun, time that could be spent on preparing to find a new job. However, however. I know you've spent a lot of time on the Cold Fusion code, Matt, but the new Slash code is quite exquisite and the Scoop code (used by KuroShin) is also quite nice. There are a multitude of features in each that help defeat some of the large-community issues that Metafilter is having, including moderation of submissions and comments (and threads in Scoop, I think). It's not hard to defeat the Slashdot design paradigm; it could look like Metafilter on the front but act like Slash/Scoop on the back.

3. Matt, as bad as it is, you know it could be a lot worse. I get maybe one comment a week on World New York (even with my page views through the roof these past couple of weeks), but you should see the shit I get in the submissions box. I use about one in 200 of them.

Recommendations for reducing the noise:

1. Stop allowing all users to post to the front page.
2. Add a longer new user probation period.
3. Institute categories.
4. Add a "Recommended" category, in which you pick threads that are particularly interesting. Allow this, or any other category or groups of categories, to be chosen as the default items on each registered user's front page.
5. Be more free with the thread delete key.
6. Be less tolerant. No place is for everyone.
7. Allow users to not see posts by any other user they choose.
8. This is something I've been working slowly on for about a year: a crap detector. There are others out there, I'm sure. In my implementation, anything submitted in a form will be examined for keyword and phrases matches, some flagged negative, some flagged positive. By using an algorithm that relates the number of words to the sum of the negative flags (and all submissions end up with a negative number, except those that are submissions of known text such as famous speeches), a score is reached. This score could be used to institute an automatic starting point for moderation, to accrue or deplete karma, or simply to warn the submitter that their post is crap. The flags searched for include grammar, spelling, punctuation, rhetoric, clichés and buzzwords with penalties for being too short or too long.

Finally, I'd be happy to help, in my limited capacity.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:09 PM on September 23, 2001


I say we all enlist. Then after our tours are done, some years from now, those of us with intact typing fingers get to swap war stories.
posted by crasspastor at 2:14 PM on September 23, 2001


With so many people coming onto metafilter, doesn't it cost quite a bit to pay for that hosting/bandwidth? I'd definately donate if I had a credit card (hey, just finished school), and certainly wouldn't be adverse to subscription - although maybe an answer would be to shut it down for a week?

I remember when that happened a little while back, the site got back to normal pretty quickish (well, as far as I could see), and maybe it would siphon off a few people who couldn't be bothered to stick with it.

And 1 link a day would be good too?
posted by Mossy at 2:47 PM on September 23, 2001


Matt, a few things:

What has happened here is that the baby has grown up and done so rapidly, like a teenager at puberty. The old way of parenting won't work anymore. Not to say that ideals must be changed (in fact they shouldn't unless your ideals change), but the way that those ideals are expressed probably needs to change. Perhaps they should be better codified. Perhaps it's time to buy some larger clothes (i.e. tweak the model and give it room to grow laterally).

I can tell you one thing: It would be very sad if this community was scattered to the wind. It's not www.metafilter.com that is important. It's not the thread/post/comment paradigm that's important. It's not even the #006699.

It's the people who make me come back.

When you kill a community site, you scatter the people. If you no longer want to run it, hand it down instead to someone else who shares your ideals and take your place as Metafilter's Jebediah Johnson.

I'd be fine with payment.

I'd be happy to help, or even to take over although I'd prefer to do it as a group.
posted by fooljay at 3:25 PM on September 23, 2001


I've been reading for a long time (mouseover my name and you'll see I boast a classy 274, or something around there, I don't remember), I don't post much because people yell at me. I really enjoy coming here every day and hearing other people's opinions and being the first in line to the latest memes. Without MeFi, I would survive, but it would be a DULL, DREARY EXISTENCE. Kind of like Omega Man. Sure, you've survived, but WHY?

I concur totally with the Moderation system. With a community this large it's only a matter of time before it degenerates into: "First post/LOL U R STUPID LOLOLO" Without moderation, there's nothing else. You've been doing a great job so far with the moderation though. 11K people, maybe 80 links a day for the last 2 weeks...that's a lot of mud to wade through. However, many people are suggesting that they do the moderation. I speak with uncertainty, but does Matt even know half of you? Who does he choose? Who is truly aware of the burden that MeFi encompasses?

Payment seems like a good option. However, I'm young and I don't have access to a credit card because it's, well, impossible. A new system would also have to be implemented. More work for Matt.

Matt's done a great job here. But if he feels the need to stop, he shouldn't have to keep wasting his time just for us. I'm certain someone else would gladly take over for the fame quotient (wasn't he on the cover of some magazine before?).


Or, he could just put some banner ads on the pages, have an IPO and retire to the cayman islands at {matt's current age}!
posted by starduck at 5:08 PM on September 23, 2001


I'd love to see what a subscriber-only "MetaFilter Premium" site would look like (as a companion to the main site). You could even start a second numbering system for it, so if I'm the 10th person to sign up I'm Premium user 10.
posted by rcade at 5:24 PM on September 23, 2001


Another thought: Metafilter is like Napster, or (take your pick of other music sharing services), meaning it utilizes a community to obtain it's content. One of the key issues with the Napster debate was whether pay for usage would work. The general consensus is that COST = LESS USERS = LESS CONTENT. If there WAS a charge for a community site, in this case MeFi, there would be less users than what it currently has. So what begins is a cycle of there not being enough links, people leaving, new people seeing no incentive to join, finally turning Metafilter into a deserted ghost-town that charges "4 dollars for pardners and 2 dollars for young buckaroos" to join.

If the problem IS money, then I suggest insider advertising. I wouldn't mind seeing this on the main page every now and then:
"Hey, anybody try the new Coca-Cola Lemon Flavor(TM)? It's quite delicious and refreshing!"

Okay, I'll admit, I don't know if I was being sarcastic there or not. Banner ads, on the other hand, might not be such a bad idea. A 125X125 on the side bar and a...I can't remember...468x60 on the top? That sounds right.

That's just if it IS about the money. I'm certain running a server with this much load costs a LOT, and I'm certainly not helping by posting such big comments...
posted by starduck at 5:43 PM on September 23, 2001


Well, I do like the #006699....
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:04 PM on September 23, 2001


I just think there are still plenty of reasons to envy and appreciate the person who runs MetaFilter -- Kottke's negative assessment be damned. No offense, but he's had a love/hate relationship with the place for almost as long as it has been around.

That's because I wish Matt ill. That fucker.
posted by jkottke at 8:24 PM on September 23, 2001


jason, we should bowl over whether or not to shut the site down.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:31 PM on September 23, 2001


I like the bank account/quota method mentioned by willnot, perhaps enhanced with othe restrictions. I also think a chat channel, or subchannels integrated into threads would bleed-off a lot of the excess posts (and sub-quality posts). Assuming it ever was intended for such, Mefi can no longer accommodate real-time conversations for the masses. Restrict away!
posted by ParisParamus at 8:32 PM on September 23, 2001


jason, we should bowl over whether or not to shut the site down.

Yes! Yes! Can we? That would be so fun. I've got several hotdish jokes I can tell along the way to knock yer socks off.
posted by jkottke at 8:38 PM on September 23, 2001


I am a long time poster/reader, I guess since the beginning. I enjoy the community and would say that after all the new people come in, things usually settle down and get better. From every new wave of sign-ups there are a bunch of jackasses, but they usually go away after awhile and we gain a couple of great voices.

I don't think I would pay for the site. I think a better solution would be more institutional controls, such as monthly posting restrictions (maybe one per month for the first month, and it gets progressively larger). Or make the ability to post at all a nominated position-- two or three of those who already have posting rights would have to confirm that a given member can also post new links.

I think there are 2-4 good controls that could turn the site around. I think we can whether the storm as a free and open community, and not one that becomes stale and too clubby.
posted by chaz at 8:55 PM on September 23, 2001


That's because I wish Matt ill. That fucker.

Don't deny your power, Jason -- you sent Matt into a deep existential funk with nine words.

What you should have said, and what I think you mean to say every time you kvetch about MetaFilter on your weblog, is this:

"MetaFilter's too crowded. Nobody goes there any more."
posted by rcade at 8:59 PM on September 23, 2001


I'm trying to think about this as if I was creating a community site with 10,000+ users fresh out of the box.

First thing I'd do is think of moderators. A lot of the older, more active users would probably be happy to take up a position as moderator. So I'd ask them. Moderators could suggest other members to be moderators, and if I agree, poof, they're a moderator. No heirarchy, just me, then moderators.

Now, handling posts. I'd leave posts in threads unrestricted, anyone can post into a thread. The moderators would be able to delete crap posts, though, and should do so quite frequently; unless it actually adds to the discussion in some way, it's axed.

Front page posts would be shifted into a queue, which the moderators (or me, since I'd technically be a moderator... king moderator! ahem) could check over a few times a day and approve or disapproved. Approved threads go to the front page. Disapproved threads are booted after 3 votes (or something arbitrary like that). Once a thread has been disapproved, it requires an equal amount of approval to put it on the front page. Posts aren't viewable anywhere until they're approved.

I dunno, that's just off the top of my head. But hey, it's Matt's site, if he isn't having fun, it's not worth keeping (to him, at least).
posted by billybunny at 9:01 PM on September 23, 2001


Would not a hard limit on members be a good start on remedying the problems now confonting Mefi? Matt, go back to the last time your thought Mefi was doing aok. How many members did you have? Make that the new limit. Issue "thanks for everything, but adios" missives to the unlucky high numbers, reserving some slots of high-number but high quality people of your choosing. Turn off the new membership button. When someone fails to post for 120 days (or whatever arbitary number you choose), email them to see if they still want to be a member. Another 30 days with no response, they forfeit their number. Get a few numbers open, call to the current membership for recommendations - no open membership. Ever. It keeps the numbers down, it reduces problems, and damned if it doesn't add a little cachet, too. If you found that further measures were needed (karma setups, nominal fees), you could always institute them then.

You owe us nothing, Matt - we owe you. You should have no qualm about acting with impunity.
posted by UncleFes at 9:13 PM on September 23, 2001


Don't deny your power, Jason -- you sent Matt into a deep existential funk with nine words.

rogers, with all due respect, the existential funk had nothing to do with jason's post. matt's been pretty down about mefi for a while now, and, well...can i go bowling too guys?
posted by judith at 9:30 PM on September 23, 2001


I find peterme's model very attractive -- it sounds like the best chance for keeping the atmosphere neither out of control or moribund. If your core group of people are good about inviting people over, the site should be able to be more intimate but still open, complete with strangers, new opinions, and so on, until eventually it gets out of hand again. Then, of course, you may repeat the whole process.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:38 PM on September 23, 2001


Nor, goddammit, I meant to write "neither out of control nor moribund." But of course you knew that.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:48 PM on September 23, 2001


I think it generally opens doors for me...

"You gotta get the doors open before you can find out what's behind them." -- M. Hall, 1972
posted by aaron at 9:53 PM on September 23, 2001



You are wonderful, Matt.

Thanks for this site. It's my favourite website on the internet. It's very, very good. You guide it with a sure, gentle hand, and ensure that it maintains a sense of whimsy, order, and self-awareness. Thank-you.

I would love for it to exist forever and ever... But that won't happen. If you've ceased to enjoy it, you need to do something. If you wish to try again, I have some thoughts. If not - thank-you for the experiences you allowed me to share.

1) Moderators. I hate 'em. I like MeFi's democracy, the dumb-asses alongside the sages. I like that it doesn't favour right over left, long-winded over concise, potentially useless over potentially useful. I dig it. It's cool.

2) $. This is the way to go. There's no doubt in my mind. A one time fee of $10, and you get full posting rights. Your numbers will sink dramatically. (Hooray!) Even now, few people are willing to pay for the web, but almost anyone who really wants to (and I speak as an unemployed student) can afford $10, especially if they get to participate in the Internet's finest website, as a result. If stuff gets lousy again, well, go for a monthly subscription system.

3) I don't like the idea of 'pay-per-post', or post-quotas. Self-policing works, and I enjoy some noise with my signal.

4) The 'Old Guard' inviting people? Sounds fine. But only if I get invited. This is the key problem with this suggestion: I feel I have something to contribute - but will this be recognized by others? Multiply this by the hundreds of peole who are in a similar position. How many of us will dismissed as stupids?

One final thing - I still think MeFi is great. It's outstanding. It's not on life support, selon moi. It is, however, growing up.

posted by Marquis at 10:32 PM on September 23, 2001


what I think you mean

Uh oh, those are some dangerous words there, Rogers. I think I can handle telling people what I mean all by myself....you know, with my "power" and everything.

"MetaFilter's too crowded. Nobody goes there any more."

MetaFilter, for me, has been disappointing because it's not what it was supposed to be (based upon my understanding of what Matt initially wanted the site to be and my observations of the site's first few months). (Matt, you should correct me if I'm wrong on any of this...)

MetaFilter was designed primarily to be a group weblog and for the first months of the site (not counting those months at the very beginning when it was just Matt posting), it functioned very well like that. The community, such as it was at the time, brought good links and intelligent commentary to the site. You could read an entire day's output in a few minutes. People seemed to care about keeping the quality high and the noise low. It was a group weblog, it belonged to every member equally, there was a sense of ownership.

Gradually (but almost completely at this stage), MetaFilter changed into something else: a watercooler conversation with 10,000 participants. MetaFilter became a discussion board with a weblog tacked on the front of it...a place to have conversations about things. In the shift from weblog to conversations and with the addition of several thousand more people, the linking aspect was de-emphasized, quality suffered, and the ownership that everyone seemed to take in the site was lost.

This shift in MeFi's "mission" (if you will) is not a bad thing, and it's not anyone's fault, certainly not Matt's fault. The community evolved and steered itself ("steered" is not quite the right word...it implies that it was willfully done, but I think it was largely a subconscious group effort) to where we are now, and Matt just helped it go where it wanted to go as his schedule allowed.

But this shift is disappointing for me (and for Matt as well, based upon extensive conversations I've had with him about this), partially because I think MeFi is more interesting with the emphasis on the weblog aspect than on the community aspect and partially because the community discussion thing has been done before. Add moderation, categorization, post approval, don't allow every post on the front page, implement a karma scheme, break up long threads into multiple pages, etc. etc.....and you've got yourself Plastic, Kuro5hin, Slashdot or a hundred other community sites. It's already been done. What makes MetaFilter so appealing for the people that use it is its simplicity. Links on the front page, discussion a level down...that's about it. Metafilter works better than Plastic or Slashdot interface-wise...but it wasn't designed to scale well to it's present size or purpose.

So, I can't really say that MetaFilter's broken. It functions as well in its current state as an online community can. Many good conversations occur on MeFi weekly. People learn and meet new people with new viewpoints. Like fooljay said, "It's the people who make me come back"...and that's true for a lot of the folks on here. With the implementation of the host of new features that people are proposing, I think MeFi could function exceptionally well as a Web watercooler.

But I got used to MeFi as it was, pre-watercooler, and I'd like it if it swung back in that direction somehow (probably impossible at this stage without some sort of drastic action). I like the idea of a collabortive group weblog that includes discussion...a more open version of memepool (minus categories), I guess. Many minds coming together not just to converse, but to make a really great resource to visit daily. I dunno, I just have the feeling that Matt was really on to something with MetaFilter....and then it became a chat room. And that makes me sad.
posted by jkottke at 11:56 PM on September 23, 2001 [2 favorites]


Now, all this newfangled talk of weblogs on the InterNet has me a mite bamboozled, but isn't "a collabortive group weblog that includes discussion" exactly what Metafilter still is?

What I mean to ask is how you reckon "a discussion board with a weblog tacked on the front of it" is substantively different from a "weblog that includes discussion" other than in emphasis? And a wee bit further, do you actually believe that as many people would come back here, and value the 'place' as much, and discuss it (as they have in this thread and many others) with such clear emotion in their ASCII voices, if it were "a more open version of memepool"? One assumes if what you're saying comes from extensive discussions with Matt, that these are the same sort of lines that he's thinking along as well...

But that to me smacks of saying that New York would be better place if it were more like an open version of Cleveland. (London, Birmingham; Sydney,Dubbo; choose your pair) Not to unnecessarily disrespect Memepool, but still. Come on!

I'm not intending necessarily to disagree with what you have to say, Special K, but I just don't quite get your point. What do you see as so all-fired important about the 'weblog' format, other than it's primacy in mindshare these days?

One more question : why the watercooler analogy? Bit of an arbitrarily pejorative, in my mind, that doesn't make any clearer, in my mind at least, what you're trying to say.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:00 AM on September 24, 2001


Well, maybe I do get your point, if it's 'things were way better before all these other folks showed up.' But as one of the 'other folks', I can't really know if that's true or not.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:02 AM on September 24, 2001


I think kottke has a point, I've thought for a long time that matt should be charging CNN for acting as their message board.

It's nothing but the same stuff I read on news sites, it's a race to post the same link that everyone else has already read or heard on the radio on the way into work.

No filter, nothing's meta.
posted by Mick at 5:43 AM on September 24, 2001


Maybe MetaFilter needs to be "hot tubbed."

Maybe so, but perhaps not in the same incarnation, unless we want to see the same thing occur within 3 years.

In the past, I had invested some effort into making MeFi better, either through discussion in MeTa, e-mailing individuals that I thought ventured beyond the pale, and trying to post and comment cogently on MeFi. But now, I am tired, because in the words of another excellent MetaFilistine who has not yet commented in this thread, it would be akin to cleaning the Aegean Stables.

However, we also have a wonderful opportunity here, for we have learned much about what it takes for a community weblog to flourish: pride and a sense of ownership among the community members, openness to new and even controversial ideas, fresh membership, and moderation in growth. For this reason alone, MetaFilter is not a lost cause.

Whether or not you, Matt, decide to take the Herculean route of diverting a river to flush out the membership, or the more labor intensive route of scooping out the shit pile-by-pile, I hope that the same ideals (openness, dialogue, ownership) are again front and center. I would also add that there ought to be set standards whereby folks know how to comment and post intelligibly (in the form of a list of rules, and follow up to post or comment deletions so that members who erred may now why action was taken), a number of deputies who would help you filter the site when the site is not able to filter itself, and some way of highlighting those threads that can stand as paragons of MetaFilter (so that folks can see the Platonic ideal to which their comments and posts ought to strive.)

And whatever you decide to do, I and others will be right behind beside you.
posted by Avogadro at 6:23 AM on September 24, 2001


Sell it. Walk away from it and let someone else figure out what the hell to do with it. People won't give up on it just because you're not running it any more. The cult of mathowie probably doesn't mean shit to most people who come here.

Go have fun, go find a job that you like that will last a while, and get on with your life.

People here who crave the "original MetaFilter experience" are probably skilled enough to go build a thousand new MetaFilters. (I'm really rather surprised more people haven't already done this.) Then they can experiment with their own notions of web communities and social engineering to their hearts' content. It should help Powazek sell his book.


posted by briank at 8:01 AM on September 24, 2001


I think it would be a shame to give up on the concept of MeFi. I don't have time to read 20 blogs and other sites every day. I've received lesser-known news and information by coming here, that I would never have seen otherwise. (An excellent article about Afghanistan from Iranian.com just to give a recent example). Everything jkottke said is true, but self-policing did work for a while, so here's a less drastic potential remedy:

Rewrite the guidelines. Emphasize that this is not a place to discuss every mainstream news item, post links to places that already receive numerous hits, or just argue opinions. (I know it's in there, but we need reminding; I've been guilty of all three post-9/11). The most frequent participants here seem to be a fairly serious bunch. They've had no problem keeping folks in line on self-posts, product-shilling, double posts etc. Perhaps, they can work on this, too.

I don't know if the number of members mean this is doomed to failure. Maybe, a town can never operate like a kibbutz. But regardless of the "cult of mathowie", MeFi was a great idea. If payment is the solution, I'd be happy to pay the man who had it.
posted by liam at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2001


The real question is: Matt, what do you want to do? Would addressing the technical, cost and personality issues bring Mefi back to where you want it, or would only full burndown solve the problems you see? Or is it a matter of simply being sick of doing it, regardless of other factors? Many times, I will say "this thing is wrong" and "we need to fix these parts" on an ongoing project, when the real reason for my dissatisfaction is simple boredom, or the feeling that the project is an anchor that keeps me from devoting time and energy to new projects. If that's the case here, then discussions of premium setups or goofy new user posts are moot.

That said, I don't think anyone would blame you if it was the latter - you've devoted imeasurable time and energy to this, and that obligation has only increased (I surmise) over time. Burnout happens. But it has different remedies than the difficulties of strains on the technical end, or an increasing troll and juvie population.
posted by UncleFes at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2001


I would like to suggest that the problems that are showing up in MeFi these days are just miniature versions of the strange things that are happening in "the real world". How many times during a news cast do you find yourself saying, "people are messed up, what the heck is going on with the world?"
I know it sounds apocalyptic, but the world is pretty strange right now, and this place is getting strange too. But isn't it interesting, watching the same human interactions that lead to the events we see in the news, happen in a safe, non-(physially) threatening environment?
I have no idea how much work goes into this. I know it must be crippling. I get so much from just being able to watch everyone talk, and I give back so little. Please, let me pay you!
But, Matt, do what you must. I want you to be happy. (hug from nadia).
posted by nprigoda at 9:24 AM on September 24, 2001


I realized something this morning, that kind of gets at the heart of the problem, or at least the thing jason describes.

There are definite differences between something like the fray and something like metafilter in 2001. The occasional community site vs. the water cooler.

It's really not that hard to lead a community, people do it all the time. The same rules that apply to bowling leagues, book clubs, and road trip car etiquette apply to online community. Be a nice host and get everyone to act civil.

There's a massive difference between building a collaborative site where people can contribute to and feel a part of, and building a collaborative place where people "hang out" 24/7.

With something like the ticketstubs site I've been putting off for over a year, and have wanted to build as soon as I get some free time, it will be a place where people go to add new stories, or read a few stories. Once a month, people might revisit, or once a week, who knows. I would compare it to Heather's mirror project site, I go there whenever a friend puts a link to their shot, but other wise, I might check it once a month. I don't know everyone there because it's not the type of place you hang out at.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have a place where thousands of people are, all the time. They're off talking about stuff in nooks of the site you'll never find yourself. There are personality conflicts and emailed threats between members and hack attempts you can't possibly keep track of. I can't remember the last time I got to read all the threads in a single day, or even follow all the links. I probably read half of the threads, and only the ones that look interesting. I built a clubhouse that became a bustling casino I can't keep track of anymore.

If you need an offline analogy, I guess it's like running a fairgrounds or museum, compared to running a bar. At a fairgrounds or museum, you have lots of occasional visitors, and from time to time you do a bunch of work and put on periodic events and more people show up, but afterwards it peters out to the occasional visits. However, when you run a bar, you have regulars. You're open every day of the year, as many hours as you can stay awake. You have alcoholics that hang out every second you're open, you have fights between patrons, and when you occasionally cut off the belligerent guy, he sometimes takes a swing at you. If you run a museum, you have a job, if you run a bar, it's your entire life.

Building an occasional or simply collaborative community site is fun. The wealth of submissions make for a rich information experience.

Building an online water cooler is exhausting. How many places are there online where you can just hang out like this? A few hundred busy UBBs? Slashdot and kuro5hin? Any place else? (web only - I live on several email lists that serve this purpose, and have seen a few die out from owner burnout)

When I think of the place jason describes, and what the site was at the very start, it was a place more akin to memepool. A place you checked on each day for good links, and maybe leave a comment or two. Evolt.org is also a place I use as an occasional information resource, but not a place to hang out (they have mailing lists for that). I bet Fark.com has gone through the same thing. I remember emailing with Drew, the guy that built it. Once he added comments, it was still a good place for wacky links, and the 5-10 comment threads would often point to other supporting links or offer information about the thing being linked. Then, it turned into a water cooler, and there are ~30 comments on every thread now.

I'll openly admit I'm getting burned out on the whole thing. I thought I was building a small diversion for daily fun, and never thought I'd be building a 24/7 burden on my life and on my free time. Going to Australia and taking time off was the happiest time I've had, and it's been downhill ever since. So I'm burned out. And I'm nearly unemployed. And I'm tired of running a show where the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:04 AM on September 24, 2001 [2 favorites]


I have no answers. I wish I did. So I'm only posting here to add my voice to the chorus saying "I don't want MeFi to die."

MetaFilter has changed, and it's not what it used to be, but I'd rather this than no MetaFilter at all. Matt, if you can't deal anymore, throw it open to group moderation. It's worth a try before you kill the site entirely, isn't it?

I hereby volunteer to help in any way I can, if not as a deputized member of the MetaFilter Police Collective, then as a coder to help with some of the programmatic efforts people have mentioned (since I'm a three-leet ColdFusion coder now, and all). And if not as a coder, then as a paying subscriber. Someone threw out the number $7.95 a month? I spend more than that on lunch some days.

Again---no answers, but an open offer to help support a New Improved MeFi, in any way it's needed.
posted by Sapphireblue at 11:23 AM on September 24, 2001


i don't know if paying for metafilter will fix everything -- as matt describes, it just seems like a chore to work on the site. and if you don't like your job, you should probably move onto a new one.

matt:

i think the dilemma, as you describe it, is where to go from here. obviously metafilter as it is right now is too much. and it may be that the metafilter of old is not the metafilter now (i've only known it as it seems to be right now: i first visited regularly in april).

i guess the thing to do, then, is rank what is giving you the most headaches. what do you spend most of your time on with metafilter? killing links? dealing with assholes who post or comment irresponsibly?

i suppose we could go on and on about how to improve metafilter, but the more prescient question is do you even want to spend that effort? and if not, could you hand off metafilter, and to whom. and i think that if you did hand off metafilter, there would still need to be wholesale changes: it isn't right to think someone else can withstand the pressure of maintaining this site better than anyone else. it would probably get to anyone. like that joy division song: "something must break now / this life isn't mine". put a posting cap of 1 comment per thread, and if you must discuss things any further you take it to email? that would be one suggestion of mine.

but all that's up to you.
posted by moz at 11:47 AM on September 24, 2001


Hiatus, Matt. At least until the Current Situation has resolved itself somewhat. You've helped to spawn dozens of forums in which people can find a niche: and it's a classic rule of business that when a group becomes cumbersome, it's time to dissect it.

Right now, trying to impose some kind of technological solution would just impose an additional layer of grief, and sap more time, which is precisely not what you need. Call a timeout; get some biking in before the weather turns; do the bloody ticketstubs project.

MeFi in its current form is your abusive partner; don't let us make you an enabler.
posted by holgate at 11:57 AM on September 24, 2001


Take it down and never bring it back. Start new things, find jobs, go swimming.
posted by corpse at 12:01 PM on September 24, 2001


Matt: Whatever you decide, take care of yourself before you take care of the site.
posted by harmful at 12:57 PM on September 24, 2001


It ... this, is just too much. For one person that is.

It's a stampede of hippo's and has Mister Matt on the other side trying to calm us with little more than cake-mix ...a good analogy i know =P

And I'm all for a re-filtering of the members (getting hot-tubbed). Even if it does mean I get a boot.

There is just too much going on right now with everyone and their mother joining to get their two cents in on topics like the WTC or "Hey, look what the government didn't know!"
==================

But, with all of this recent discussion on these topics ...


---
I'd really like to know what you think Mister Matt ...

on moderators
on MeFi Premium (paysite)
on restarting membership to your invite only
maybe trashing it completely and restarting
hand it over to someone else ..

or just end the legacy :(
posted by a11an at 1:40 PM on September 24, 2001


Spandex mentioned Pay-Per-Post (PPP©) in passing above; I believe that this much neglected concept would be more effective at engineering a return to old-style MeFi than its oft-debated cousin, the subscription model.

In other threads on this topic, posters have lamented the lack of care that goes into front-page posts these days. If one had to pay money for the privilege of posting each link, one would put a lot more thought into selecting and posting only truly interesting or valuable links. And one would most likely work harder to surround that link with clever, witty, or at least interesting text.

The subscription model (be it monthly or a one-time fee) does nothing to combat bad posts. Rather, it encourages them — creating an all-you-can-eat buffet mentality ('gotta get my $7.95 worth of MeFi'). Surely we would prefer PPP's elegant 'MetaFilter A La Carte' to the subscription model's 'MetaSizzler' alternative.

Imagine a front page without Ananova and Yahoo!News and SurvivorBlog2 links. No restrictions, limits, or subscription fees could promise that. Only through the heaviest-handed sort of moderation (which is labor intensive and could be extremely contentious) might such an effect be achieved. PPP, on the other hand, is truly self-policing — who would pay five bucks (and go through the hassle of entering credit card info) just to link to the CNN main page?

Applying PPP to comments as well as links could be equally successful. I'd imagine few people willing to pay a buck (which is, after all, the cost of a 20-minute long distance phone call) just to say 'me too'. Ideally, PPP would slant comments towards the direction of kindall's much lauded defense of community post and away from the drivel that prompted it.

PPP need not be a permanent state; Matt could turn it on whenever the signal-to-noise ratio fell too low (or if he was coming up short on that month's rent) and then turn it back off when the unwashed masses have drifted away and only committed members remain.

I'd also like to see one free day each week, even when PPP is in effect. Maybe 'Wacky Wednesday' or 'Freewheeling Friday' (which has always been kind of loose anyway). The free-for-all that MeFi has become is occasionally exciting; it's only the sustained (and, incidentally, unsustainable) nature of the noise that makes it wearying. PPP plus Freewheeling Friday equals the best of both worlds — reasoned, intelligent discussion can coexist with wanton silliness.

Just the thoughts of a longtime lurker (such a dirty sounding word).
posted by gassire at 2:04 PM on September 24, 2001


Talking about the demise of MetaFilter in MetaTalk is kinda like sitting down to have a reasonable discussion about divorce with your wife. No one is going to be able to look at it rationally. Everyone is biased.

Which reminds me, I really need to get that excerpt of chapter 11 online....
posted by fraying at 2:31 PM on September 24, 2001


I don't think PPP would discourage poor posts so much as it would discourage poor posters.
posted by mattpfeff at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2001


What most everyone above said...

Of course, you realize that we wouldn't be in this situation if everyone made Matt pancakes...

Okay, I kind of touched on this, if not in this thread then in another but... I agree with Jason about the weblog-turned-watercooler analogy. I also like Matt's museum-bar analogy.

The problem here is that we, as a collective, like each other. That's not to say that I personally like each and every individual, or their ideals, but many of us have come to call Mefi our "family".

Mefi has transcended, in many ways, it's original mission.

It is no longer a weblog, because people want to discuss. When something noteworthy happens, we all emote. Many of us want to emote to/with this group because we respect the institution of family that has been built here. I actually want to hear opinions of many Mefi members more than I do people in my real life.

So, what's amazing, is that we've (meaning you Matt, with the help of 11,000 others) built a community that we care about.

So the question becomes not "How do we make Metafilter what it used to be" but "How do we get back the Metafilter concept while still catering to the desires of the community that has been built?" Those desires on the whole are clearly multi-faceted. They include the original Metafilter concept (weblog with discussion). If recent events and no-link posts are any indication, they also include pure, unadulterated discussion. The front page and thread pages are busting their britches trying to accomodate things that they were never designed to take.

Proposed Solution

Matt, I really believe that if we created a section which could satisfy the second desire above, the pressure on the Metafilter dam would be relieved. If there was a place to discuss (with the Mefi family) recent events and philosophical differences, there would be no reason to post no-link entires or "What do you think about this" posts.

Metafilter - community weblog
Metadiscuss - Community discussion
Metatalk - Community biotching

To use your analogy. This started out as a really popular museum where contents change on a daily basis. People started recognizing other patrons and discussing the art. This continued until the museum was bursting with patrons and many people came just to connect with others. The original patrons started complaining that others were interfering with their enjoyment of the art. Then someone brings in a boom box and a dance party breaks out.

So what is the proprietor to do? He could implement tough restrictions that may alienate a lot of people, but would hopefully revert the museum back to its original concept. Perhaps though the measures may not be successful and then the community gets galvanized. (Happening now).

If however the proprietor were to build a new wing to the museum, where people could hang out, chat, dance, make pancakes or whatever, with the other regulars, then the pressure on the original museum concept would be released.

You are not alone

In growing the Metafilter network, there is an opportunity to do some really cool shit here, Matt. It doesn't have to be a pain in the ass. I will help as I'm sure, many others will. (Remember, I am currently enjoying unemployment and hence have a bit of time on my hands... Perhaps building something for Mefi will properly channel my angst re: this forum...)

Rely on your community. This thing has become too big for one person to be responsible for. We love you, we love Mefi, and we love pancakes.

Smile, go have a beer, think, kiss Kay and rejuvenate yourself. All is not lost.
posted by fooljay at 3:19 PM on September 24, 2001 [1 favorite]


Why not just leave the site as it is, introduce some more restrictive posting rules, add some advertising, and then go start the site you really want to do somewhere else?

Or just sell the site (you'll never get what it's 'worth' in your heart, but you can probably get a decent offer) and start the site of your dreams elsewhere. You've got a hell of a first lesson in online community building, I'm sure thousands of people would be eargerly anticipating your next project.
posted by cell divide at 3:45 PM on September 24, 2001


I don't have any advice that hasn't already been given 10 times.

I just know that life without Metafilter is going to suck. I love Metafilter. First Kacey, then the WTC, now Metafilter.

Fuck.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:04 PM on September 24, 2001


I will support what ever happens to MeFi. If new coding is needed I can lend a hand. If moderating is needed I would help. The signal to noise is way off and I have not found spending time at MeFi productive (okay it has never been productive, but it has been fun). My co-workers are my MeFi filters and now point me to the cool stuff. If MeFi goes to the wind I will understand.
posted by vanderwal at 4:50 PM on September 24, 2001


fooljay just might be on to something there...
posted by gd779 at 4:54 PM on September 24, 2001


It wouldn't be the first time I've been accused of being on something...

Err--huh? Oh, sorry, nevermind...
posted by fooljay at 5:01 PM on September 24, 2001


Well, I can't imagine there isn't a member here that wouldn't acknowledge that Matt is definitely entitled to some financial compensation for all his hard work here.

Perhaps paid membership (say, free to view... level2 members post a limited number of comments per week... ... front-page posting for full-members-only?) would get a little control here.

"I hear ten complaints to each compliment these days"

I still think you rock, Matt....
(Offering semi-crushed daisy I found in my pocket.)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 5:25 PM on September 24, 2001


I think the membership fee is a good one; it would give you time to work on the site, and it would raise the bar for participants. a cadre of trusted moderators might take some of the pressure off you, too.

mostly, you need to decide what you want metafilter to be.

the thing is, the site that jason desribes is very different from the site that metafilter has become when metafilter is at its best. 9.11 was the way it was here because everyone could post, and everyone could poke around to find resources.

maybe the answer would be along the lines that fooljay proposes. maybe that and a subscription fee. maybe during times of crisis, you can open the site up to any who chose to post.

but if you take it back to the jason vision of metafilter, it's never going to be the same kind of resource that it was during the seattle earthquake or the WTC. that's fine, but you should be aware of that.

what you built is not what you thought you were building, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. a film is never what the writer or director thinks it will be like, or a play, but that doesn't make them failures.

so, if you could make a living off the site and/or some of the moderation headaches would go away, would the site as it has become make you happy? if you had these moderation headaches and made no money off it, would the site you initially envisioned make you happy?

ultimately, it should be a place that reflects what you want it to be, and the amount of time you invest should either be monetarily or emotionally renumerated.
posted by rebeccablood at 5:54 PM on September 24, 2001


After some conversing with Anil .. I've learned and had my eyes opened a bit.

Matt is the man behind all of this, and being so ... and change to MeFi/MeTa would mean even more hours of coding/shoveling through documentation and a whole pile of reworking.

Hmm, So (even as a HS student, using MeFi as a 'cool news' outlet) ... I have to succumb to the fact that there needs to be a membership 'fee' type beast implemented.

And, although I have little money that my folks will allow me to have to sign-up for internet thingies to help Matt dig through this mess of ideas and work something out ...

I will get the shovel. :)
posted by a11an at 6:10 PM on September 24, 2001


But...Matt doesn't have to do all of the coding. In fact, there are a hell of a lot of geeks around here who would gladly picth in...
posted by fooljay at 6:20 PM on September 24, 2001


here who would gladly picth in...

And a hell of a lot of English majors like me who would spell-check for you!

sorry, fooljay, I had to say it! I have zero coding ability, but I would love to help in any way...
posted by arco at 6:39 PM on September 24, 2001


I don't have anything new to say, just a few thoughts. I've been reading Mefi for less than a year, and contributing for a significantly shorter period of time than that. I'm one of those folks who'd be really really sad to see it go, not only because it gives me something to do when I'm supposed to be working, but because I've learned so much from it. I wouldn't make web pages the way I do now if I hadn't been to Mefi; I wouldn't have the nearly the same perspective on the web that I do now. I'm not a web star, and I don't have any friends who would give me the password to the hot tub. I don't read nearly every thread, but it pretty easy to pick out the clunkers and avoid them, and just as easy to notice the ones that are going to be interesting. This was where I first heard about the events of Sept. 11, and I think there's a general consensus that the place generally rocked that day.

That said, I'm torn between the gut reaction to say "No, don't take it away!" with the knowledge that saying that is incredibly selfish, given that I couldn't (and wouldn't know how to) manage something like Mefi in addition to balancing a work and a home life. But, as many people have said, I'd be willing to contribute what I can. Outsource... find people who's opinions you trust to help moderate. If you ease off the daily workload and still find it to be no fun... give it up.
posted by transient at 6:49 PM on September 24, 2001


one more thought: matt, when you started mefi there were only a handful of weblogs. with the proliferation, is metafilter as a community-weblog going to bring something to the web that isn't there already? is the site as it's now functioning bringing something to the web that isn't there elsewhere?

if I'm not mistaken, you said that until you learned to post links and ask a question the discussion part of metafilter didn't really take off.

now, with a large part of the membership valuing the discussion forums above the link part (myself among them -- sorry, AYBABTU came through my email box *weeks* before it hit mefi; I like the discussions about politics and world events, I learn a lot) there have been continuous complaints about how metafilter has gone downhill.

speaking for myself, there are lots of weblogs I can go to for "cool links"; this is the only one I come to for conversation.

again, it all comes down to what will make you happiest, but I do think it's worth looking at what you proposed to offer the web in 1999 and what you're offering it today.
posted by rebeccablood at 7:06 PM on September 24, 2001


Many of us have different ideas of when MeFi was at its best, depending primarily on how long we've been here. The greatest thing I've seen happen during my short stay has been this, but many of you would consider it part of the downfall, no?

Before any "Pro" pay system is put in place, we should make sure the economics would work. Are there examples of successful indie sites with subscription services out there? How many members did they lose? How much are people willing to pay? I have a sneaking suspicion that there are only a few hundred members here that maintain their involvement for more than a few months.
posted by D at 8:50 PM on September 24, 2001


[!snort!]
[belch]
wha?
posted by quonsar at 8:56 PM on September 24, 2001


Rebecca has it.

If you want Metafilter to revert to what Jason has described, it would really be very simple.

Two words: Time delay.

Just program in a 24 hour time lag for every link-post and every comment-post. Voila. No more current events. Do an auto scrub for front-pager repeat links, generate a scrub list for those wondering why their repeat links never showed up, keep MetaTalk, and relax.

You'd get back to a liesurely link-based un-chat-like site. Membership and participation would plummet, easing server woes, etc...both link-posts and comments would become more essay-like and less confrontational...more polish, more spell-checking, more editing...

But, like Rebecca said, the current incarnation of MetaFilter seems a lot livelier and more interesting than the days-of-yore version. I like the Usenet meme. I vote keep it as is, enlist some time-on-their-hands help, make it all members-only, and charge a reasonable fee. Then, see what happens.

Be a shame (um, almost stupid?) to toss it before investigating its profit potential...if it makes enough bucks, then you can think about setting up confusing categories and elitist levels - for now, strike while the community seems worth buying into...
posted by Opus Dark at 8:59 PM on September 24, 2001


Not much I can add to all of the advise and words of encouragement already said by the many friends of "MeFi". If it goes away I will be disappointed, because I have been reading since the beginning. I did not register at the the start, because I am not good at forming my thoughts so that others can actually get my drift. Most of the folks who post here are eloquent, witty and have views so diverse that I feel I get a great world view right here. MetaFilter is the only web community that I read on a daily basis. Good luck, Matt, whatever you decide.
posted by bjgeiger at 9:00 PM on September 24, 2001


matt, i know you are reluctant to charge, in part out of a sense of feeling like it's not fair to charge people for content they themselves provide, but i would encourage you to think of it as part of your bar analogy - we'd simply pay a cover charge in order to enter & hang out. all of this is of course totally outside of whether you *want* to keep it running, of course. but if you do, i think we could help you find a reasonable price point where we could satisfy some of your goals...
posted by judith at 9:04 PM on September 24, 2001


fooljay, your three rooms idea sounds good, but how do you maintain some semblence of order in the water cooler area? Is it even something anyone worries about? It seems like it could be worse, or harder to manage if it was even more free form than metafilter.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:16 PM on September 24, 2001


Lurking on MetaFilter is one of my favorite activities. I am turned on to things I might not otherwise have seen and am provoked to actually think/examine my beliefs while reading the comments posted on a link that interests me.

As has been said ad nauseam, it is ultimately your decision Matt. However, I wonder what would happen if a link to this discussion were posted on the main page as a form of warning. Might give some a reason to lay off the "Post" button if it meant the site would vanish into the ether.
posted by sillygit at 9:19 PM on September 24, 2001


maybe i'm just terribly cheap, but i don't want a per-post or per-month charge. if you must charge, it should be a one time fee.
posted by moz at 9:21 PM on September 24, 2001


Or a yearly fee. Or something like that. I think that would at least kill off a bulk of the membership and prevent crap like the recent survivorcam thing. I'm sure there are many of us who would pay for the service. How about pay to post, free to read? I spent quite a bit of time coming here before I ever signed up to post. The only problem with that, of course, is that Matt has to pretty much rewrite the infrastructure to support payment. I can't imagine that would be fun or pretty. I know that I'll miss this site if it goes the way of so many others, but I can't blame you Matt, if you have no other choice than to just shut it down.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:55 PM on September 24, 2001


I wrote this on 1142, and printing it here too:



1. When Moses said, "Let my people go" he wasn't talking about your userbase. Shut down MeFi and the thing that made MeFi great - the people - will forget about it and not come back.

2. MeFi is NOT a field of dreams. Rebuild it, and they will not come. After all, if you couldn't get it right the first time, or fix the problems there, why will the second time be any different

3. Every community, web or otherwise, goes thru spurts of crappitude. Just because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition doesn't mean that bad things doesn't happen. Luckily bad things pass and things will settle down again, hopefully with a more educated people. This is called EVOLUTION.

4. Rather than dwell on all the negative aspects of MeFi, take a look at all the positive things. MeFi has managed to voice opinions in a relative air of understanding across a huge range of subjects. It scooped CNN & the AP on the Seattle Earthquake. It has been used as a news source by other maintstream press & media. While there is an element of rabble currently on MeFi, it still remains an excellent source of information & opinion.

5. MeFi has become a central location of the weblog world. It has brought the weblog community closer over the past few years. Tearing it town will either see the rise of another central location or the shattering of the weblog community (unlikely). It will CERTAINLY take the media focus off the weblog world. This is probably not a good thing. I like getting phone calls from Rolling Stone & Wired.

6. Think Netscape & Mozilla. Killing off your software without giving the users anywhere to play in the mean time will mean allienating them, or having them move the the next-best-thing. This could have terrible ramifications for sites such as 5k, 1142 & others. 10,000 1142 users may well give cC a heart attack. And where would we be without our fearless leader?

7. As Joel On Software put it, old code does not go bad. It is a lot easier (& better) to update old than to rewrite from scratch. Even if this means taking the site down for a say to implement it, it will surely be a lot smoother transition than killing off MeFi all together.

8. There have been dozens and dozens of suggestions of how to make MeFi a nicer place. This has taken a lot of the thought process for improving MeFi out of the picture. Now, instead of having to think up ideas, it simply a matter of selecting the best one. Implementing this idea to MeFi is better than trying to create a new site from scratch, and rethinking the entire concept. Remeber; the concept of MeFi is sound, it is merely the implementation that needs UPDATING.

9. Even though there are a lot of old timers whining about how crap the place has become, this is because of the high influx of new users. Once new users become old users, they will understand the ways of MeFi a lot better. This is a matter of time & patience. New Users do not become Old Users overnight. It won't happen quickly, but it will happen. And then THEY will educate the next generation of MeFites, and so on and so forth. It is simply a matter of education and discipline and love, as any parent will tell you.

10. If older members have a huge problem with MeFi, don't shut down MeFi, tell them to leave. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. An another analogy: If you run a successful bar, whose clientel changes over the years, and the older clientel become unhappy, do you shut down the bar? Of course not. What do you do? Either try to accomodate them with changes back to the way it was (when it was less successful), or build a second bar. You don't shut down the first bar though.

11. One day Matt might realise just how much his career rests on MeFi. In a world where image is everything, being the creator of THE most successful weblog, and one of the most successful indie media websites may just win him a job where, all things being equal, his skill level is the same as the next applicant. It might also see his career in unforseen directions; webmaster of CNN, Slate, Salon? Guest speaker on Oprah? Option to write a book on web media? These options die the same day that MeFi does.

12. MeTi seems like a very negative place at the moment. Do not be suprised at this. If you look back in the archives, it has ALWAYS been a very negative place. That is, funnily enough, half of why it's there. People rarely pat each other on the back, but are almost always willing to put the boot in. It was a wise idea to set MeTi up, just don't get to down when people there blow off steam.

13. There seem to be three main complaints about MeFi - 1. Too many front page posts - 2. Too many stupid/racist/inflamtory/trolling comments - 3. Too many complaints about how crap the place is. By fixing 1 & 2, 3 will also be fixed. This is not an excercise in pulling the house down and rebuilding it, just fixing those main issues. Limit the number of front page posts, or who can post there, or how many times. Limit the number of comments someone can make, or install a karma system, or be more vigilant in killing trolls and trouble makers. Fix these problems and 3 will no longer be an issue.

14. Objectively review if all this negativity about MeFi is warrented, and you may well find it is not. Is the place all that different from a year ago, when the Florida news blitz was on, or six months before that, when there was AYBABTU madness? Has there been quality linking going on amongst the rubble? Has there been quality discussion? If you expect every thread to be wonderful, you're setting your expectations up for a fall. Determine what you think is a suitable ratio of good/bad threads, and measure now, a year ago, and two years ago to objectively determine whether things have changed. You may be surprised at the result.

15. Responding to negativity with negativity will not get you anywhere. Listening to all the "this place is crap, kill it" comments will not improve the place. There have also been comments from newer users (and older ones) stating how great they think the place is, even now. Respond to the negative with positives. If it's crap, do something POSITIVE about it, not something NEGATIVE, like destroying something you've worked hard to achieve. Move forward, not backward. And other platitudes.

16. If you really, really, really believe the place is falling down around you, you should become Samson, and hold the place up again, not step aside and let it fall. This sounds tough to do - and because Matt isn't Sampson (just MeGod), he could enlist help. Rather than let it go to ruins, offer people the chance to help change it for the better. Trust in older members to help regulate the site in the spirit of the older MeFi, deleting double posts and shutting down trolls. Don't step aside and let it fall - prop it up, or ask for help. Asking for help is not a bad thing, and there are many people who'd jump at the chance to pitch in.

17. MeFi is a community. While Matt is in no way obligated to that community, simply pulling the plug will shatter it, possibly permanently. Now, I realise that most of the hard-core a-listers know each other in person, but the other 12000 users do not. MeFi has helped them learn, grow, understand, talk, and also participate, befriend, and sometimes meet. Killing this community would be a terrible loss.

18. MeFi has helped in surprising ways, such as the scholarship fund. MeFi has also BEEN helped in surprising ways, such as the fund raisings for the server/bandwidth, and the 1337 user ID 8 sale. While Matt has put effort building the community, the community has put money into helping him. Ditching MeFi would be a kick in the balls to everyone who has offered support. Listening to the peopole who have supported it, understanding their issues, and accomodating them is a much, much better way to go.

19. As obvious as it seems, and true to the nature and purpose of the site, MeFi, despite all the noise, is still one of THE BEST places for timely information. It still serves its purpose. It may swing with the flavour of the month, but this is merely a reflection of the world. MeFi is, without a doubt, the best weblog for news and events. As Jason Kottke put it though (forgive me for mentioning him) the filter has been lifted. This is not a reason to kill it off. This is a reason to work out what made the filter work, and re-applying it. NOT KILL. Understand? NOT KILL. UPDATE. Got it? Good.

20. Shutting down MeFi makes the Baby Jesus cry. And we wouldn't want that now, would we?

posted by Neale at 10:19 PM on September 24, 2001


Instead of a distinct MetaDiscuss, why not simply a filtering system whereby one could posts material which is "discussion" as such, and post that which is "metafilter" as such. Then, in reading Metafilter, one could chose to filter-out the "discussion" if one wanted. This would be a richer experience than two distinct worlds.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:25 PM on September 24, 2001


Matt- if you're going to follow fooljay's suggestion, you'd need to have MeFi as the water cooler and create some other room as the museum. It would be too large a headache to try to rain in what happens in MeFi proper.

One of the things I (and I assume most others) don't understand is how much of the order is the result of your direct involvement.

I've seen your invisible hand from time to time deleting posts or fixing a broken close italics tag. How much of that do you do. If you just left it there, would it really be a problem?

I imagine you also have your share of trouble with booting trolls and others that don't meet even your laissez-faire vision for MeFi. How much of the self-policing nature of MeFi are the handful of loud voices that have many members scared to post a thread and how much of it is your invisible hand?

It sounds like most of your headaches are a combination of the amount of time you need to put in and the fact that it isn’t really want you intended it to be. See if ignoring it for a while can relieve you of those two stresses. If you can stand it, I would suggest you let it go Wild West for a while. In that time you can focus more on building whatever it is you want to build. Or if you don’t feel like building anything taking another trip down under or whatever you need to do to let Calgon take you away. If it gets too bad, you can think about trying some of the suggestions for curbing some of the negative aspects or just scrap the whole thing

Here's the thing though - even if you don't want to go the moderator route, you should be able to make enough money off MeFi that you could hire somebody to do the moderation you are getting tired of worrying about.

Charge for a MeFi Pro, bring in Doubleclick or some ad server for those that don't pay. I suspect that even with a softening ad market, you get enough traffic to generate an income for yourself as the landlord and somebody else as the handyman.

posted by willnot at 10:41 PM on September 24, 2001


"I like getting phone calls from Rolling Stone & Wired."

Me too! Now, if only anyone actually ever called.. In all seriousness, the opinion of this long-time reader and occasional poster is to go for the financial-effect route (either advertising or membership charge). While some of the "hot tub"-related advice would probably work, the aura of secret clubbyness makes me feel all oogie and would probably keep me away from the new MeFi (which might be the point). On the other hand, I'm sure many of us who run websites either have or have thought about shutting them down at times, and so I suspect that if Matt decides to close this place, folks will be disappointed ("Nooooooooo!"), but respect his decision.
posted by jess at 11:31 PM on September 24, 2001


$2.95-$5.00 a month, I'd say. Maybe $50/year? Charge for participation; viewing is free.

The thing is, billing is a huge pain in the ass and it adds all kinds of new admin tasks (half of your phone/electric/gas bill goes towards the process of producing all those millions of bills and the accounts depts. staff). You'd have to be making a nice salary for it to be worth it (think of all the tech support emails and credit card snafus, requests for money back -- not to mention tax issues).

But, if it was your job, and it paid well, would that be worth it? (<-- non-rhetorical question: really curious about the answer. pretty sure you said to me the other day that you would like it, if you it paid as well/took as much time as a regular job.)

I like the three rooms idea too.

And finally: volunteering to help with coding is good, but actually taking people up on it is hard -- all the explaining the idiosyncracies of the current code, the DB, etc. Creating documentation where none exists, granting permissions for the servers, division of labor, responsibilities, etc.: lots of trust.
posted by sylloge at 1:28 AM on September 25, 2001


I guess I wonder if the suggestions that've been posted here are aimed at solving matt's quandry, or the MeFi community's. Alas, the two seem to be distinct. (Matt says he wants a fun diversion.)

So I guess it comes down to rebeccablood and sylloge's (and others') question, matt, would you do this for a living if you could?

Then it'd be worth testing ideas and looking into how to make that work.

Anyway, I will try and shut up now. I swear, I'll try. And I'll cast my vote for keeping MeFi alive with that donate link I've heretofore ignored. (Stupid dumbass newbie.)

kthxbi.
posted by mattpfeff at 1:46 AM on September 25, 2001


You got a two room apartment with 11,000 people in it. Building a deck will bring another 5,500 to the party. Pretty soon you’ve got ISCA BBS and people are complaining that nobody uses the Marching Band room, so could you kill it and bring back Star Wars Philosophy please? We know it had problems the constant Han-Chewie/C3P0-R2D2 “partner” trolling, but we’ll be good this time we swear.

Yea that’s fun.

Priority check: You started this for fun. You say you’re not having fun. If it were me, I wouldn’t hesitate, the site is dead.

Unless your priorities have changed. Maybe you do it for the media hits. It’s a fun thrill, I understand. That goes away though, and you’re back where you started.

Maybe you feel the work you put into this site is charity to its devotees.

You sure as hell ain’t doing it for the money. You might be able to change that. Who’s buying websites right now? Would the membership fee cover the costs? Would 10,000 people pay $5/yr for this site? It took you two years to get 11,000 registered members por gratis.

If you turn it into a money-maker you’re tied to a website that you’re anguishing over. Which means you’re gonna have to make major changes or remain a masochist. ISCA sold out last year.

The fact is you don’t owe anyone here anything. Yea, they’ll be sad when it goes away. They’ll also be sad when the Simpsons gets cancelled.
posted by raaka at 3:43 AM on September 25, 2001


Joining the party a couple of days late as usual, but for what it's worth....

It'd be like having my local pub closed down to lose MeFi (and you know how seriously we British take our pubs...) but I'd learn to live with the loss.

If you created a new, pay-site which reverted to the 'old' style MeFi front page format - I'd pay. Plenty.

You userbase owes you everything, you owe us nothing yet you give everything and get little in return. Your baby has grown up and become a spoiled brat. Maybe it's time to kick it out into the world and let it fend for itself.
Sell the brand and let the users who like the site the way it is continue to do what they do, but with someone else agonising over the running of it. I guess it may be a difficult thing to hand over the reins to someone and not have any input, but maybe that would appease the users who like the site the way it is.

Take a break, spend some time with your wife, you'll get much more in return than you do from a bunch of bickering egos you've never met. If you get enough for the site, travel, buy a yacht, whatever but take a break from the thing that has dominated your life for little return for so long now (your first post in this thread reads very like posts you were making a long time ago).

You will always be Matt Haughey, the guy who created the coolest place on the net. Your career doesn't rest on whether you continue here or not despite what Neale may say.

If you decide to keep MeFi and change it - be sure that you're going to feel better about the place in 6 months time.

Take control of your own life, Matt. We'll get over it.
posted by Markb at 6:31 AM on September 25, 2001


Matt -- If you take it down we will miss it but it won't kill us, but if keeping it up harms your quality of life it's a no-brainer.
posted by DBAPaul at 8:38 AM on September 25, 2001


Instead of a distinct MetaDiscuss, why not simply a filtering system

Everytime someone posts a comment to this thread that contains the words "why not simply," they have to give up one bean. No more beans, no more talking.

It's *work* to do all these things you're suggesting! Let Matt have some time with Kay, for god's sake. Someone get him a fellowship at a think tank for a year.
posted by rodii at 8:40 AM on September 25, 2001


Neale, all your points have to do with the effect that shutting down MeFi would have on other people. None of that matters. If MeFi is no longer giving Matt pleasure, that is the only thing which is important. He's the one who puts in the work; if he isn't getting any rewards out of it then it should go, or change, or something. What you want (and what I might want) are not important.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:41 AM on September 25, 2001


I don't like the tone of this thread at all. It's a dreadful shame that Matt's no longer enjoying the site he created, but I for one would like to say that I think the site is a fabulous achievement and I am enjoying it very much. Matt should be proud and should continue to be proud - because the standard of discussion here is still the most intelligent on the Web, despite the recent disaster. I would be glad either to see Matt continue to work on it or to pass it on into someone else's governance, but it would be a tragedy for the site to disappear.
posted by skylar at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2001


fooljay, your three rooms idea sounds good, but how do you maintain some semblence of order in the water cooler area? Is it even something anyone worries about? It seems like it could be worse, or harder to manage if it was even more free form than metafilter.

I don't know where the three rooms came from. We have one now (weblog bulging with discussion). I was suggesting making a second room (topic-based, not link based) thus relieving the pressure on the first. Now if you thought of a cool third room, by all means, point it out. I love when I have good ideas inadvertently. :-)

Matt, why do you think it would be harder to manage if it was more free form? In other words, what would you expect to happen? I'm not saying that it wouldn't be, I'm just curious.

I think it's as important to plan the place before you (we) build it. Just like any other project, goals need to be documented and fleshed out. Once the goals are down, then you can establish the design which best fits those goals. If that means fewer rules, fine. If not, then you have more.

Every place has to have rules. I think that they would just be different. Also, while a regular old discussion board would probably do, it doesn't have to be the way it is. By virtue of having 11,000 members, you have the chance to change discussion forums on the net. Let's do something interesting. Not Slashdot or Kuro5hin. Not Metafilter. Make it unique. Make it Metafilteresque (in feel, not in function). Make it yours.

Instead of a distinct MetaDiscuss, why not simply a filtering system whereby one could posts material which is "discussion" as such, and post that which is "metafilter" as such. Then, in reading Metafilter, one could chose to filter-out the "discussion" if one wanted. This would be a richer experience than two distinct worlds.

The problem with that is the front page still scrolls like crazy, if not worse than before. Right now, Mefi is rife with no-link posts, continuing discussion posts, etc etc etc. Those belong in a section of MeDi (MetaDiscuss).

Matt- if you're going to follow fooljay's suggestion, you'd need to have MeFi as the water cooler and create some other room as the museum. It would be too large a headache to try to rain in what happens in MeFi proper.

I disagree. The rules are already in place in Metafilter and the code is specialized for weblog-style posting. The second room I speak of probably should be different. It should be specialized for discussions. Otherwise, you just end up with two Metafilters and a lot of confusion.

In case anyone's unclear on what the difference would be here goes: On Mefi, you might find something like this. On MeDi, you might find "Should America change it's foreign policy?" which would have contained all of the links and discussion which went onto Mefi (here, here, here, here, here, here, etc).

I think that a "9/11" topic would have been too broad, and subtopics would naturally have splintered from it. It's interesting to think that perhaps a 9/11 topic could have started and that at some point, someone would have created this subtopic under it. (Think of the PC-paradigm: folder (topic), which can contain files (discussion) and folders (other topics)...)

The difference is that on Mefi, someone posts a link, and then people talk about the link specifically. On Medi, people post a topic and talk about the topic specifically. If something on Mefi starts to divert to a discussion topic not related to the link, people can "take it to MeDi".

And finally: volunteering to help with coding is good, but actually taking people up on it is hard -- all the explaining the idiosyncracies of the current code, the DB, etc. Creating documentation where none exists, granting permissions for the servers, division of labor, responsibilities, etc.: lots of trust.

I was actually thinking that MeDi should be an entirely distinct code base designed specifically for discussion. That would mean that Matt wouldn't necessarily even have to lift a finger, since there is no legacy code... There is a group who is ready to help...

Thanks for reading...
posted by fooljay at 11:09 AM on September 25, 2001


what exactly are the problems with metafilter -- i mean, what violations of the rules are the worst? that goes to what fooljay was saying.

double posts may be a problem on a metadiscuss, for one thing; i.e. bringing up the same topic over, and over. this happens all the time on metafilter, but no one complains, because the links are different and the posts are often separated by variable periods of time. imagine two abortion related posts, one posted in may, and the other in july. both are on the same topic, and are likely to rehash the same discussion, but are separated by several monthes and contain different links.

perhaps in metadiscuss there could be a way to create topics, such as abortion. rather than organizing threads around links, as metafilter does, metadiscuss could organize around something else -- perhaps a day, or a week. someone could introduce a link on one of the comments in that day's thread, and people could discuss it. that way, though people may still rehash their arguments over and over, they can still quite easily search backwards in time to find previous discussions, and possibly say "hey, we bitched about that already, let's move on." categories such as that already exist in metafilter, though implicitly so in the form of themed postings. i.e., politics raised by posting a thread about a comment bush had about the environment.
posted by moz at 11:25 AM on September 25, 2001


i wasn't as clear as i'd hoped; what i mean to say is, have days organized under a topic. and the discussions go into the threads for specific days.
posted by moz at 11:26 AM on September 25, 2001


I don't know where the three rooms came from. We have one now (weblog bulging with discussion). I was suggesting making a second room (topic-based, not link based) thus relieving the pressure on the first. Now if you thought of a cool third room, by all means, point it out. I love when I have good ideas inadvertently. :-)

MetaFilter is one room, MetaTalk is two, and the proposed MetaDiscuss is three.
posted by jkottke at 11:33 AM on September 25, 2001


I'm truly impressed with the amount of work people are volunteering Matt for.
posted by harmful at 2:08 PM on September 25, 2001


harmful, I think mainly people are proposing solutions, brainstorming so that matt can consider all the ways that might make metafilter work for him.

or, having considered all the possibilities, close it down, knowing that there wouldn't have been a way to make it work.
posted by rebeccablood at 2:18 PM on September 25, 2001


harmful: Somehow, I'm guessing that, if he were to ask, Matt would have no lack of volunteers to do the work.
posted by gd779 at 4:05 PM on September 25, 2001


Thanks Jason. That would be three rooms (duh)...

harmful, what gd779 said and theoretically, Matt needs to do almost zero work.

moz, I think the big problem with Mefi-style discussion is that the front page scrolls. If I were going to do Metadiscuss, I would probably consider making it topical (think a scaled down Yahoo front page). I'm not sure about the exact paradigm I would recommend, but I can assure you that it would not be Mefi-style thread scrolling and dropping off of the end of the pier into the archives...
posted by fooljay at 5:09 PM on September 25, 2001


It's great that there are volunteers to do the work, but Matt would still have to coordinate and manage that effort (or find someone to volunteer to do that). That in itself can often be harder than the work (this is similar to the "throwing more programmers at a late project makes it go slower, not faster" concept). I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but to remember to consider that aspect of it. Up until now, it's just been Matt, and he may not enjoy project management work (or he may love it).
posted by girlhacker at 5:11 PM on September 25, 2001


girlhacker, when I actually get paid for work, I'm a Product Manager and ex-engineer. I get it...

Perhaps I am not making myself clear. Theoretically, Metadiscuss could be a completely different code base and content database, live on a completely different server in some other part of the world. It could share Mefi's stylesheet and and hook into Mefi's database from afar for user lookups. It could be made to look, from the perspective of a ordinary web user, to be completely seamless in operation with Mefi.

Not that I'd suggest we should do it this way, but depending on how it would work (if in fact it were to be attempted), Matt's time could be kept to a minumum.

I hope that explains my idea a bit more fully. I've been rushed during the course of the last three posts, so that'll teach me...
posted by fooljay at 10:18 PM on September 25, 2001


> Theoretically, Metadiscuss could be a completely different code base and content database ...

That's basically what we did with the 5k (just sharing the user database) except that Matt created metatalk.the5k.org himself with tweaked metatalk code.

There were session-integration issues with switching between different domains (nice if one log on worked accross all sites) and definitely some work on Matt's part, but what foojay is suggesting wouldn't be that much work as long as Matt was still into running the site.

Which is really the issue.
posted by sylloge at 10:34 PM on September 25, 2001


True, sylloge. True...
posted by fooljay at 10:37 PM on September 25, 2001


"MeFi has become a central location of the weblog world. It has brought the weblog community closer over the past few years."

Percisely why I like MeFi. Without it, the web becomes a lot of "them" and much less "us".

I have no idea what Matt should do, my brain can't even fathom handling a task like that. What I will say, however, is that I will pay. Just don't make it too much, my salary just got cut in half.
posted by Hackworth at 11:06 PM on September 25, 2001


if one has to complain consistently on a creation others are invested in, then that person needs to pull the plug, hand over the wheel or Sell. Do one or the other , just quit bitching. If meFi is gone what is Lost that could not be maintained without mefi, if it really means something, then nothing could stop it. Open registartion killed MeFi.
posted by newnameintown at 8:15 AM on September 26, 2001


my shit spelling and slow spell checker dont help.SPQR baby
posted by newnameintown at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2001


It's been echo'd above, Matt - but if you DO enlist the scoobies (and the other legions of helpers) along the lines of fooljay's suggestion, remember that the designation of a few coordinators would be as important as the code that the volunteers sling.

e.g. you don't have to take it all on yourself.

but that assumes you would even want to go down this road

what you want, Matt?
posted by crankyrobot at 2:00 PM on September 26, 2001


what is Lost that could not be maintained without mefi

newname,

Man, I can't even begin .. This is a community. Being such I can name dozens of things that I would miss if it just went ka-put and went away :(

I've met people (jay, anil, owillis-haven't contacted yet =P) And all these people who are really super neat guys. They think in different ways, they are friendly people.

The members have shown me things, taught me things, they have opinionated views and SPEAK them!

It's friendly, I like conversation/discussion. They find things that I would never know about.

And lastly...

I like these people dammit. Now, should if it all went away all of us would just fizzle away into the vast expanse of the web ... doubtful to cross paths again.


if it really means something, then nothing could stop it

Lots of stuff can. Because it is Mister Matt that made this and was OH SO kind to let us join in ... so, if it really is just too much for one guy to hobby with (which i think it is) things need to change - one way or another.

posted by a11an at 3:04 PM on September 26, 2001


Do what you gotta do, baby, but keep this in mind:

Although we've never met, I consider most of you people friends. I haven't been here long, but I'm starting to recognize names that I see over and over. And I look forward to seeing your wiseass remarks and insight. People here have brought me to movies I'd otherwise skip, musicians I've never heard of and...well, not a day goes by that I don't learn something from one of you.

So, Matt, my vote goes to turning it over to someone else, but someONE, not a committee. Pick someone with a positive mental attitude and a zest for the unusual. Pick someone with opinions and attitude, but also with an open mind. And rely on the strength of your community to keep it going.

And drop in on us from time to time, because...hell, guy. I'd miss my friend.
posted by ColdChef at 4:11 PM on September 26, 2001 [1 favorite]


Some pretty solid solutions have been already discussed, but basically it boils down to this:

If the site is no longer fun for the proprietor, then the proprietor should shut it down. Absolutely. And the amazing thing is that most people here would understand. But I for one would miss it. This site has been invaluable for me to pick up alternative links to combat the limited spectrum of news (CNN) available to me in Germany. And I've met a good deal of wonderful people because of this place.

Alternatively, Matt could find a way to hand it over to a respectable and skilled person who would continue with its original purpose while taking into account the new direction, someone for whom MeFi could be fun for. And then he could go to Australia again with no worries.

Matt: If it's simply a matter of being burnt out, of spending incalculable hours and money into this thing, then by all means take another sabbatical. Close MeFi for two months, do not even think about it and then return to the thing and see if you feel the same way. Obviously, MeFi's very existence indicates to me that some part of you feels a desire to maintain it, whether by obligation to the community or a hope that the current problem will rectify itself.

But keep in mind that you have an able arsenal of people willing to help or contribute here to focus on MeFi's vision. The burden does not have to be yours exclusively.

As a side note, why does this situation remind me of the whole "good of the many outweighing the need of the one" stuff from the Star Trek films?




posted by ed at 7:51 PM on September 26, 2001


I've been holding back, although I can concur with many above that I love this place, I love the people, and MeFi has greatly enriched my life. (Although my partner is sick to death of hearing "today I read on MetaFilter that....")

what I am going to say, just to Matt, is that I went to his site & was just wandering around, and I found this article.

and these two lines seemed relevant to the current discussion:

one: Indecision is a decision

two: We did do something amazing

damn straight, y'did.

good luck, and live well (god bless, live long & prosper, etc.), whatever you decide.

emn
posted by epersonae at 9:15 PM on September 26, 2001


Goddammit. I have been a mostly-background character in the whole Metafilter saga. But if I have to make a mega-ultra post that catches all eyes and tickles all brains, I will. If I have to pay a $100.00 entrance fee, I will. If I have to
(Insert your method to grab attention/appear intelligent/be retarded/act as token 'conservative asshole'/troll really nicely/grab my virtual crotch) here, I will.

I'm member # 857, dammit!

Well, thanks for everything, Matt.

(sheesh)

posted by Wizzle at 12:24 AM on September 27, 2001


The election last year, and then the Kaycee saga this year are things that stick out in my mind about Mefi and what makes me come back here almost every day.

I just love this place.

Matt: you should charge people who want to post and comment on Mefi. People are willingly to pay. I don't have a credit card, but could get access to one if necessary to pay. I would not consider US$30 a year unreasonable (paid twice annually in US$15 installments).




posted by jay at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2001


Matt, I agree with the camp that says 'if it's killing you, knock it off'. It's not your duty to carry us piggy-back. As you know, I love the place to death, but I'd get over the loss if I had to.

Since rcade made the offer, maybe a joint project with one or more of the volunteers here would lessen the load on yourself, and bring you something resembling a real life.

No matter what you decide, my thanks and best wishes go with you, unreservedly.
posted by Perigee at 9:57 AM on September 28, 2001


matt could sell the database info alone for $10K+. no i'm not talking user information, the content itself is interesting enough to fill a book. hell, google bought USENET archives, why not MeFi? even the library of congress looks to preserve historical records, even from the Internet(long/still(?) considered a non-traditional medium).

i, too, have a lot of suggestions but it looks like you might be all stocked up here. one overwhelming theme that i must admit i agree with is: don't kill it. please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

damn, i'm just getting warmed up and everybody already went home.
posted by donkeysuck at 11:56 PM on September 28, 2001


the content itself is interesting enough to fill a book.

Getting permission from all the contributors would be a pain in the ass, though, especially from people who don't come around anymore and who never provided valid e-mail addresses to begin with.
posted by kindall at 7:03 PM on September 29, 2001


How much would Metafilter be worth?

If a buyer or group offered you what you put on the piece of paper, would you sell it?

How long would let the site sit on the market?


My 2 cents. Close the windows for awhile. Sure growth has spiked beyond most predictions, but it seems a bit much. The only thing I can compare this to is a popular, trendy, spot that doesn't have a cover charge. Maybe you need a bouncer or two to kick out the riff raffs. Maybe a rotating group of "volunteers" to scan through new membership applications. Maybe a closing time for a little while, say M-F with weekends closed. Limit it to a "normal" work week. Fun is the key word. Everyone here I think has fun visiting except the owner. Keep it up, but when 30+ links in 5 hours is the norm, maybe close shop for the day. The stock markets have stopping and cooling off points if trading is too much, so try something a little like it.
posted by brent at 7:41 PM on September 29, 2001


MetaFilter became a discussion board with a weblog tacked on the front of it...a place to have conversations about things. In the shift from weblog to conversations and with the addition of several thousand more people, the linking aspect was de-emphasized, quality suffered, and the ownership that everyone seemed to take in the site was lost.

No kidding. Today's "let's talk about how much we hate Gap ads" link depresses me. I don't really come here to talk or to hang out; I come to see something cool and then split to go check it out.

I know I'm coming to this way late, but I'm going to ask a favor: if you're going to kill it anyway, could you at least kill it slowly, like maybe eliminating the comment option altogether and leaving it just as a weblog? Because the weblog is the part I like best and it is all about me, after all.

Anyway, you have my sympathy. This must feel like raising a kid who grows up and turns into the kind of person you wouldn't touch with a ten-foot-pole (meanwhile still mooching your food and laundry facilities).
posted by stefanie at 11:02 AM on October 1, 2001


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