Best MeFi conversations? May 30, 2008 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I know... it's about the links, not the discussions...

nevertheless, I come here 60-70% for the conversations, and the links are only the icing on my personal metacake. I am trying to explain to one of my friends why it is that I like this place so much. I looked at the previous best of mefi threads and skimmed my own "files." I culled and forwarded about a dozen fantastic posts and askmes, and he liked them a lot. However, I feel like I came up with fewer examples of the great discussions that happen on MeFi than I could have.

Can anyone remind me of (or introduce me to) threads that showcase the great conversations that sometimes happen on MeFi?

Previous threads I found that have a related but different purpose:
1, 2, 3

(On preview, metacake reads a lot like meatcake, and I can't decide whether or not that sounds delicious.)

posted by prefpara to MetaFilter-Related at 10:34 AM (43 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I thought that the discussion in this thread was excellent: informed, passionate, but generally very civil. I like to think of it as a model discussion of an ongoing event.

And yes, as the proud parent of said thread, I am just a bit biased.
posted by googly at 11:06 AM on May 30, 2008

My vote.
posted by docpops at 11:23 AM on May 30, 2008

Sometimes someone will say ".", and then someone will respond ".". If that isn't great conversation, what is.
posted by found missing at 11:39 AM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Most Favorited FPP's EVAR
posted by iamabot at 11:54 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Meatcake sounds absolutely fine to me prefpara.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:58 AM on May 30, 2008

Links of meatcake = sausage. You're looking for sausage.
posted by not_on_display at 12:05 PM on May 30, 2008

I had a fun chat with kittens for breakfast about violence in modern cinema that I really enjoyed. I don't know if it was a "great conversation" or "one for the ages" but I feel a little validated by it, and it motivated this post, which I'm also happy with.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 PM on May 30, 2008

Despite all protestation and handwaving, MeFi hasn't been solely about the links for some time now, but much more about the conversation.

I don't state this as a personal opinion - which it surely is - but also in the way that the site is actually used by the users.

I can get links all day long on about a dozen link aggregators. Each link posted to MeFi can be found there. Often, digg, reddit and all mirror MetaFilter and vice-versa, and the links - being the same damn links - are just as good.

But I can't get all the supporting backstory, personal anecdotes, raw humor and real-world data that I get from MetaFilter.

There's nothing wrong with MetaFilter being about the conversation. We should be proud of it. There's little else like it on the web - it is in itself the best of the web. It's foolish to deny that it is our best quality. Every good thread ends up with bonus supporting links from the users alongside incredible discussions and insightful first-person anecdotes on a bewilding variety of topics.

Call it from the mountain-tops. It's about the conversation... about the links.
posted by loquacious at 12:19 PM on May 30, 2008 [11 favorites]

posted by loquacious at 12:21 PM on May 30, 2008

"It's good! Put it back. Someone is saving it..... It'll turn up in something."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:39 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think prefpara and loquacious are misinterpreting "it's about the links, not about the discussions."

No one argues that MetaFilter would be just as good without the discussion, nor that the discussion is an (not necessarily the most) important part of the site.

"It's about the links, not about the discussion" is a guideline for determining what makes a good post. That a good discussion does not justify an otherwise bad post (although on occasion, a good discussion may prevent the post from being deleted). That "I would like to discuss X" is not, in and of itself, a good reason for making a post on X. That a good post is one which would still be good even if it receives no comments at all. Not that the discussion is unimportant.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:23 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

a good post is one which would still be good even if it receives no comments at all

1. My post would clearly fail by this standard. Well, on the blue, anyway.
2. Maybe it IS all about the links... (crickets...)

Thanks, googly, docpops, & Blaze.
posted by prefpara at 1:30 PM on May 30, 2008

Does this count as conversation?
posted by sleevener at 1:59 PM on May 30, 2008

Most people come here for the conversations. I don't know why people say it's about the links. Maybe it was supposed to be. Or it once was. But it is not, and has not, been all about the links for a long, long time, and people seem disingenuous when they say so.
posted by xmutex at 2:02 PM on May 30, 2008

posted by shmegegge at 2:22 PM on May 30, 2008

sleevener, thank you for that link. I missed it the first time around.
posted by francesca too at 2:56 PM on May 30, 2008

Most people come here for the conversations. I don't know why people say it's about the links.

Another way to look at it is to say this:

It's not not about the links.

The conversation here is great. I love it. It's why I come here. If the conversation went away, it wouldn't be Metafilter.

But that doesn't make it not about the links. It's always still about the links. When the links are good and the conversation is great: Mefi gold standard. Everybody wins. When the links are good and the conversation is meh or just quiet, no sweat: it's not a great conversation thread, but the system is still working.

When the links are an excuse for Not great. Not that the conversation in there can't be pretty great (or pretty not-so-great) sometimes, but it does get away from the idea of the front page as anything other than an open forum. The links-are-the-thing mantra is pretty definitive to what the blue is, other than just some forum. Likewise the green as solving-a-problem rather than just random whizbang chatty question time on an open forum.

So I don't think there's anything odd about talking about or celebrating the cream of the crop conversations that happen on the site while still maintaining the idea that it's about the links. No, it's not all about the links in the sense that only the post text is interesting; but it is fundamentally about the links.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:09 PM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

I nominate this one. I've found stuff so good I could hardly believe it. Even for here.

Love y'all. *insert drunken Scottish headlock*
posted by imperium at 3:33 PM on May 30, 2008

Go back about 3 years and there is a lot of good stuff. It didn't always used to be everyone piling in with one liners.
posted by fire&wings at 3:41 PM on May 30, 2008

Oh, sleevener... from the bottom of my heart...
posted by prefpara at 3:49 PM on May 30, 2008

This was a clusterfuck of epic proportion and also a good discussion.
posted by empath at 4:34 PM on May 30, 2008

This was a superb discussion of the failures of the modern media, in the US and elsewhere.
posted by aihal at 4:35 PM on May 30, 2008

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

All opinions are equal.

People come here for the links, not the discussions.

These are the illusions we live by.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:37 PM on May 30, 2008

I didn't really notice the comments here for months, and MeFi was the most amazing, efficient source of cools links, a great 5-10 minutes per day.

Then FennelB clued me into the comments and MetaTalk, and hours go by. It's all on a different level, and wonderful. But the efficiency is long gone.
posted by msalt at 5:11 PM on May 30, 2008

Metatalk is clearly not the best place to settle the question of the primacy of links vs. discussion. Obviously, those of us who spend time in metatalk value the discussion here or we would spend so much time on it. So. Much. Time. So. Goddam. Much. Time.

However, it's my understanding from things mathowie and cortex have said in the past, that a significant majority of traffic to metafilter is from non-members. It seems pretty evident that it's the links that brings these people to metafilter, not the discussion. If they cared about the discussion, they'd be participating in it.

Add to that the facts that the majority of ads on the site are only seen by non-members, and that the majority of revenue the site generates is from those ads, and you have a pretty compelling argument that the links are the most important.

After all, if the links aren't good, then the non-members stop coming. If the non-members stop coming, the ads stop coming. If the ads stop coming, the ad revenue stops coming. And if the ad revenue stops coming, the site stops being able to support multiple paid moderators, a site administrator, and a programmer. If the site can no longer support its paid staff, then the the community will suffer: we'll be even more overrun by terrible posts and content-free comments than we already are, there won't be upgrades in site functionality, and when things break, they won't get fixed.

If those things happen, then we won't HAVE the discussions. There'll be no community left to have them.

So, yes, the links are the main thing.
posted by dersins at 5:41 PM on May 30, 2008

While I agree that there are plenty of non-members who could care less about the discussion, dersins, this is the internet (and therefore a haven for the shy) and I know I can count at least a few Mefites who have stated previously that they were initially too awed by the discussion to jump in themselves.

Metafilter can be intimidating, especially once you branch out from Ask. There's that nice club of people who produce and comment on 80percent or more of the content, and it can sometimes seem like it's a them-only (*ignore the complete grammar failure, please!) club and the newbie isn't welcome.

Maybe that's why so many non-members come so often but remain non-members--they like the links, they like the discussion, but they're too shy/overwhelmed/nervous to join in.

Of course, they could just read the links. But I don't think that's the full story.
posted by librarylis at 6:03 PM on May 30, 2008


posted by blasdelf at 6:37 PM on May 30, 2008

The discussions make my pink bits tingle.
posted by fixedgear at 6:55 PM on May 30, 2008

Metafilter Does Sexism.
posted by lunit at 7:21 PM on May 30, 2008

I so didn't mean to start a debate about you know is it the links is it the discussion whatever, I may be drunkers but I know what I was doing man. You guys are aweosme.
posted by prefpara at 7:31 PM on May 30, 2008

It's not actually a discussion, but I thought the Pulp Shakespeare thread was a pretty good example of what a bunch of intelligent creative motherfuckers there are around here. Note that I never posted in it.

For discussion, I will go with the health care thread docpops linked to. In fact, I commented on the quality of discussion within the thread.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:47 PM on May 30, 2008

I know... it's about the links, not the discussions...

Since everyone has been waiting for me to weigh in, here's the way my brain parses the whole "It's about the links, not the discussion" thing.

I think that statement is best thought of as something to keep in mind when posting a front page post. Anyone can come here for any reason at all of course; links, discussion, pretty colors, flame-outs. But it would be a bad idea to post to the blue thinking "This will start a great discussion!" No one can predict how a discussion will go, or if one will occur at all. Making it about the discussion, from the viewpoint of a front page poster, is almost always a mistake.

Better to approach a new post because you think the links are good, and don't worry about the discussion. Some of the best posts have hardly any discussion at all.

Disclaimer: this is not meant to be advice aimed at prefpara. I just used the quote as a jumping off point to feed my own gargantuan ego, as I often do.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:35 PM on May 30, 2008

"It is all about the links" is a behavior shaping creed that has as it's objective to keep the focus of people who make posts on what the links contain and not on what discussion they try to engender. Some people are more beholden to their own observations about how the site works than the guidelines and thus make their own creed.
posted by Catfry at 12:53 AM on May 31, 2008

Catfry, I agree with your position.
posted by BrooklynCouch at 2:30 PM on May 31, 2008

You guys are aweosme: Metafilter
posted by Hat Maui at 3:11 PM on May 31, 2008

Brooklyncouch , I don't consider it my 'position'. I have no strong feelings invested here, that is just my interpretation of the situation.
If I had to take a stand it would be that I'd wish people would mostly decide on what to link to based on uniqueness and obscurity rather than 'this current topic of interest'.
posted by Catfry at 5:51 AM on June 1, 2008

There are countless web-based forums on the Internet that do conversation better than MeFi. It's not about the conversation.

There are countless search engines out there that do linkage much better than MeFi. It's not about the links.

It's not just about the community. It's not just about the web design. It's not just about the interface. It's not just about the guidelines. It's not just about the infighting or the injokes or the sense of humor or the topic drift or the multiple occasions cold insensitivity or the precious moments of deep emotional sentiment. It's not just about the troll feeding or the puppet accounts or the 'regulars' or the 'lurkers' or the rest of us.

With MeFi, it's about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Whatever this is, it certainly doesn't exist anywhere else in cyberspace, and I dare venture to challenge that it doesn't exist anywhere else in the universe.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:50 AM on June 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

on meatcake: a friend of mine made two nine-inch round meatloaves, then used mashed potatoes as icing, down to piping it out of a star tube for decorations. I didn't have any (no beef for me) but it got raves from everyone who did - so much so that it is slated to become a Victoria Day tradition.

why yes, my truth is stranger than my fiction.
posted by heeeraldo at 3:07 PM on June 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

and I dare venture to challenge that it doesn't exist anywhere else in the universe.

Well, except for that great blog out of the Horse Head nebula, it's just like Metafilter, except that there is a button, and when you press it you get pie.

Space pie.
posted by quin at 8:14 AM on June 2, 2008

Each of these threads made me cry with laughter:
You'll put your eye out!
The Power of the Penis
Bill O'Reilly and Sylvia's
posted by Alison at 12:33 PM on June 2, 2008

I come here for ask.metafilter the most, probably. It's one of the only places you can ask real questions, get real answers, without the stupid avatars of "Yahoo answers"
posted by saxamo at 3:43 PM on June 2, 2008

Mmmm... Space pie.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:03 PM on June 2, 2008

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