Yay Metafilter! November 12, 2005 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Why are the users of Metafilter so great? I'm serious. I lurk a lot and have for years, but I have yet to come across an online community that actually works other than this one. Is it the 5 dollar donation? The name? What? I love metafilter!
posted by mike_bling to MetaFilter-Related at 7:51 PM (51 comments total)

I know you're referring to me, specifically. Thank you.
posted by horsewithnoname at 7:53 PM on November 12, 2005

I think this site got started early, it was one of the first community blogs and was able to build up a dedicated user base. Plus Matt's deft hand at keeping things in line, only banning when absolutely necessary. And the years of it being a closed community gave it added cachet.
posted by LarryC at 8:01 PM on November 12, 2005

They're all just doing my bidding.
posted by dobbs at 8:09 PM on November 12, 2005

Naval-gazing, or reacharound? YOU decide!
posted by jmccorm at 8:16 PM on November 12, 2005

The lack of a specific call for goonery helped keep the site on good ground despite it's tolerance of goonery.
posted by cortex at 8:19 PM on November 12, 2005

It's all the mushrooms.
posted by amro at 8:20 PM on November 12, 2005

Bah, compared to fark, this place is a troglodyte den!

Just kidding.
posted by socratic at 8:22 PM on November 12, 2005

Little known fact: Karl Rove keeps Metafilter operational.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:23 PM on November 12, 2005

"Is it the 5 dollar donation?"

Nah, it's gone downhill since that started.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:26 PM on November 12, 2005

I'd say it's the mix of people.
posted by amberglow at 8:27 PM on November 12, 2005

The quality of active MetaFilter users is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it attracts more of the same, and because definitively non-great people tend to not enjoy the atmosphere. Especially when they get yelled at, and especially when they feel too terrified to make a first post.

While I've often thought "I'm spending too much time on the internets", I've never thought "I'm spending too much time on MetaFilter instead of other sites". We got depth covered.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:29 PM on November 12, 2005

I'd say it's the pix of meople.
posted by Balisong at 8:30 PM on November 12, 2005

The MetaFilter format has been around since the early eighties, on a collection of discussion-only dial-up single-user BBSes known collectively as "Citadel" (there were many variants.)

The common theme among them all is simply this: they support only a single-thread discussion. There are no subject lines from which one could derive a nested, threaded list. Thus, there is no real ability to hold several simultaneous discussions on a single subject: the crosstalk between threads becomes unwieldy. As a result the discussions tend to dig deeper (when they don't devolve into flames or silliness.)

Subsequently, the user population for this software self-selects by virtue of its demanding attributes:
  • there's nothing but reading here. Endless text.
  • many of the people who post in the threads most often are also obviously very bright people: they write well, they communicate their ideas well, and they tend to have deep knowledge or access to authoritative sources.
  • if you make a mistake it will likely be noticed and you may well be savaged for it, so you gotta have thick skin.
  • if you write poorly, ie. don't communicate your idea/opinion/message/whatever well, you'll be ignored and likely openly discouraged from writing.

    To my mind, that reads like a list of attractions for the geekier, bookwormier, thinkinger sort of person, aka. not your average couch potato staring slackjawed at Stereotypical TV Crap and eating Stereotypical Unhealthy Overprocessed Snack Demi-Food.

    We will now see jonmc upbraid me for being a stuffy-ponce who look down our noses at beer-drinkers like him. Sigh.

  • posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 PM on November 12, 2005

    (our noses, because there are five of us fish, I guess...)
    posted by five fresh fish at 8:39 PM on November 12, 2005

    It is official; mike_bling confirms: metafilter is dying.
    posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:39 PM on November 12, 2005

    There are at least two other great online communities that I know of, but I definitely enjoy MetaFilter.
    posted by Captaintripps at 8:39 PM on November 12, 2005

    Metatalk helps quite a bit. Allowing every person the ability to alert the rest of the group when things go move away from Metafilter-grade-quality makes this whole better. Community-policing with active oversight over the community-policing seems to = awesomeness.
    posted by aburd at 8:41 PM on November 12, 2005

    MetaFilter is meritocracy in action - and it's not an artificial meritocracy imposed using massive amounts of banning, or even with up- and down-votes on threads. If things don't fit the guidelines they disappear, but for the most part people who can't usefully contribute don't, simply because they know that if they did, they'd be out of their depth. That's the best way to filter information - let the system filter itself.
    posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:46 PM on November 12, 2005

    Hey, I like Stereotypical Unhealthy Overprocessed Snack Demi-Food. What are you trying to say?
    posted by brundlefly at 8:50 PM on November 12, 2005

    I've only been a member of MeFi for a few months or more. Sometimes it has been good and sometimes not so good. The only comparison I can make as to why MetaFilter keeps me coming back however is that I liken using the site to attending a giant, ongoing Socratic dinner where everyone is welcome (class, age or whatever). Sure, it'll cost you some to get in. And most importantly you'll have to earn respect rather than have it placed in your lap. But this is why MeFi is cool. The meek soon die off, for example, and only the best brains completely persistent, Internet-addicted users are left behind. I'll admit it though - I love MetaFilter. And I hope it loves me.
    posted by sjvilla79 at 9:02 PM on November 12, 2005

    I'd like to follow up my snarky comment above with something more substantive. I stumbled upon Metafilter a long, long time ago, and was frustrated by the closed signups, because the people here seemed smart, clever, and really dedicated to making a community that was interesting. I was thrilled when signups opened back up (and I hope we new folks haven't spoiled it for the rest of you), and, with a few bumps, the quality of the site has remained strong.

    I don't contribute here as much as I'd like to, but I think part of the reason is that I can't seem to find the time to come up with worthy FPPs. Though it's not true of everyone here (understatement?), I think that hesitation not to muck things up is one of the reasons this place stays great.

    This isn't fark, and the relatively small number of posts and the usually intelligent (or at least interesting) commentary that goes along with them makes this site unusual for the Internet: fun, educational, and always new.

    Oh, and askmefi is damn useful.
    posted by socratic at 9:12 PM on November 12, 2005

    Why are the users of Metafilter so great?

    I'd be remiss if I didn't take at least some credit for that phenomenon...
    posted by Jon-o at 9:21 PM on November 12, 2005

    I have seen other sites work well, but they are locally based and not nearly as big as this place, say 50 - 100 people. this is the only large scale site I have seen work as well as it does.
    posted by edgeways at 9:21 PM on November 12, 2005

    Imminent demise of Metafilter predicted.
    posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:31 PM on November 12, 2005

    I THOUGHT I knew you from somewhere, fff!
    posted by Sallyfur at 10:13 PM on November 12, 2005

    everything2.com is an example of a working online community - complete with regional meetups and people who have met each other there and then cohabitated or have gotten married.

    Though, they're baby-eatin', book-humpin' weirdos over there. I'd say much weirder than here.

    But E2 shares a lot of qualities with MeFi:

    About 5-6 years old.
    Text based, with an eye for quality writing and thinking.
    As such, attractive to "old school" BBS users and nerds.
    Pedantic and fact-obsessed.
    99k users with an active core in the thousands and tens of thousands of users.
    Mostly self-policing.
    Only light use of the banhammer, but a bit heavier on the deletions. But E2 is a more static, less comment-driven and less linear format. If you write surreal gibberish or noise, it needs to be good gibberish to stick.

    The similarities between E2 and MeFi is what first attracted me to MeFi. Quality writing and thinking, with room for lots of growth and lots of topic diversity, plus with bonus helpings of being nerdly and technology obsessed and a garnish of anarchistic barely-controlled chaos. Self organizing. Etc.

    I was lurking for about a year before I was shown the back door entrance during the closed admissions periods, so at this point my active participation in both communities is closer to being the nearly same amount of time then not.
    posted by loquacious at 10:22 PM on November 12, 2005

    We're so awesome because we (don't) care!
    posted by Quartermass at 10:27 PM on November 12, 2005

    MeFi is an eddy in the stream of online consciousness
    where a certain kind of junk washes up together--smart junk--that will kill you if you can't talk the talk and walk the walk. **
    posted by Mr T at 11:22 PM on November 12, 2005

    Metafilter is the eluvium of the internet, if you really think about it.
    posted by cmonkey at 11:42 PM on November 12, 2005

    Why are the users of Metafilter so great?

    Because Mr T is a user. Seriously. We're driven toward excellence solely to avoid embarrassing ourselves in front of him. Who amongst us could possibly endure the inevitable fool-pity? None, forsooth.
    posted by gramschmidt at 12:10 AM on November 13, 2005

    posted by AwkwardPause at 12:18 AM on November 13, 2005

    loquacious: Actually, I was a poster on E2 before I posted here. I sort of tore myself away from the addictiveness of E2 and promptly became addicted to MeFi. I think MeFi had the same gathering-of-minds vibe as E2, but without the constrictions.

    Yes, I know some of you who've had FPPs scorned into oblivion are saying "Whaa?" right now. But imagine if your FPP had to conform to the Wiki/encyclopedia model, AND all your fellow MeFites could vote on your posts.

    I guess that's the appeal. A LOOSE gathering of minds. No votes. Just snark.

    I'll beat all of you to the punch...
    MetaFilter: No votes. Just snark.

    posted by brundlefly at 3:31 AM on November 13, 2005

    I was not aware that Metafilter was so great. Thanks for the heads up.
    posted by crunchland at 4:03 AM on November 13, 2005

    It's great, but it used to be better. A lot like me.
    posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:14 AM on November 13, 2005

    People just enjoy metatime!
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:41 AM on November 13, 2005

    Meh, metafilter, all hype.
    posted by TwelveTwo at 5:04 AM on November 13, 2005

    posted by matteo at 5:44 AM on November 13, 2005

    Jeez, what a circle jerk ;)

    I'd say it's some of the regulars who are very knowledgable about a variety of subjects (such as a myriad of mushrooms) and are great writers to boot. And Numba One keeping everything running smoothly, and knowing when to reign people in and when to let things slide.

    (Btw, thanks for the Medulla recommendation Jon-o. I love it)
    posted by Devils Slide at 5:50 AM on November 13, 2005

    It's simple. Most online communities simply try to do too much. You end up with a ton of different forums doing this and that, different interests and cliques, voting on this or that, and *shudder* the endless parade of sigs and avatars that add a whole 'nother subtext to the discussion. Metafilter, on the other hand, is fantastically simple. There's a single 'forum' with a focused but flexible topic ('Best of the Web') and there's linear posting on each thread. There's no army of administrators or pages of policy and rules. And the whole 'self-policing bit' is just good ol' mob-justice which, don't forget, works very well for relatively small communities. (Just look at the first 99% of human history.) And of course the gray is a crucial aspect of the success. Giving users a place to bitch and moan and let out all their destructive tendencies and silliness probably makes matt' life a lot easier (far easier than policing each thread) and provides an endless source of entertainment.
    posted by nixerman at 5:52 AM on November 13, 2005

    posted by Devils Slide at 5:56 AM on November 13, 2005

    and knowledgeable...sheesh.

    Obviously I'm not one of the aforementioned great writers.
    posted by Devils Slide at 5:58 AM on November 13, 2005

    Hey, we're bigger than Jesus, what do you expect?
    posted by allen.spaulding at 6:28 AM on November 13, 2005

    Todd Lokken.
    posted by fixedgear at 6:36 AM on November 13, 2005

    Btw, thanks for the Medulla recommendation Jon-o. I love it

    Great! I'm always excited to share that album with someone.

    Told you so.

    oh, and

    Todd Lokken
    posted by Jon-o at 6:50 AM on November 13, 2005

    Metafilter is the eluvium of the internet

    Thank you, cmonkey. I did not know that word, and now I do. There is much eluvium in my study. But I'm not going to do anything about it, because I'm too busy reading MetaFilter.
    posted by languagehat at 7:13 AM on November 13, 2005

    Because we all know what a single period all by itself in a comment means. All of us.
    posted by stet at 11:48 AM on November 13, 2005

    Except that guy over there.

    Get him!

    posted by languagehat at 12:28 PM on November 13, 2005

    Wow. That is deep. Why are we so great exactly?

    I think it's hard to narrow down a specific why, but it is simple fact that we are great. What more do you need?

    Also, if mike_bling's next post goes all u.n. owen on us? We kill him.
    posted by graventy at 3:02 PM on November 13, 2005

    its the quonsar.
    posted by quonsar at 4:29 PM on November 13, 2005

    quonsar writes "its the quonsar."

    Is that anything like The Chad?
    posted by Mitheral at 6:39 AM on November 14, 2005

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