What online fora molded you? July 17, 2009 3:12 PM   Subscribe

This might be too chat-filter-y, but I get the impression that a lot of people on mefi put in serious time in other internet fora before settling here. Just kind of curious if there's a lot of common denominators (Compuserve, The Well, etc?), and if they influenced what you expect from a 'good' online community and that's why you ended up here.

I didn't put this in ask-mefi, because I'm more curious about the hardcore metafilter users that read MeTa.
posted by empath to MetaFilter-Related at 3:12 PM (169 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

youtube comments are my influence (btw u r so gay for asking this)
posted by found missing at 3:17 PM on July 17, 2009 [10 favorites]

I should have probably meant 'good ones'. Like I've heard a few people mention the SciFi Writer's forums on GEnie before. (which i was on as a teen)...
posted by empath at 3:19 PM on July 17, 2009

For me it was Everything2 (well, Everything before that) and Slashdot.
posted by signalnine at 3:19 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

probably said that i meant, etc... clearly i did not learn to preview first.
posted by empath at 3:19 PM on July 17, 2009

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:23 PM on July 17, 2009

The only forum I've had an account on longer than here was Slashdot. User #977 in the house!

And also the Straight Dope Message Board, which was Ask Me before Ask Me was.
posted by smackfu at 3:27 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

rec.music.hiphop was the first forum I posted in extensively.
posted by reenum at 3:29 PM on July 17, 2009

posted by Elmore at 3:30 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

Most of my online internet participation was in irc, way back when it was actually a community on a single server. Once that died, I sort of just drifted for a lot of years, reading this, occasionally maybe posting there. Most of the online fora I read were just not really worth my time to join in with, even if I did enjoy the content I consumed.

I had a brief flirtation with trying to join into Consumerist, but apparently I didn't measure up or something. And that's not much of a community, overall.

I've been reading MetaFilter since, oh, easily 2003, 2004, maybe earlier. It's only been recently that I decided to may the money and make it an online home. I couldn't be happier. There's a quality of discussion here, a willingness to play with concepts, a sense of joy in the discovery of knowledge and exchange of ideas which simply isn't found many other places, if anywhere else at all.
posted by hippybear at 3:30 PM on July 17, 2009

*pay the money.

grr. damn fingers. rebelling at every turn.
posted by hippybear at 3:31 PM on July 17, 2009

rec.collecting.coins??? ha!

But yeah, usenet. BBS's. A few long, old mailing lists.
posted by GuyZero at 3:33 PM on July 17, 2009

I spent a lot of time on the Counter-Strike forums back when it was still working it's way through the various beta incarnations. It was a remarkably lively place for conversation on all kinds of topics, and eventually, I found myself spending more time in the threads than I did playing the game.

I kinda miss that place (and I'm a bit sad that it appears that all the old threads have been purged from existence.)
posted by quin at 3:34 PM on July 17, 2009

Oh wow. Plastic. The MetaFilter.com it's not okay to like.

In fact, my last comment there (September 4, 2002) was also the EXACT day I posted my first here. Haven't been back since, and it seems I've only missed about 200 comments or so. Anybody need 10 karma points?
posted by ALongDecember at 3:34 PM on July 17, 2009

First usenet, then Fark, then kuro5hin, but MetaFilter kicks all of their asses. Good communities solve social problems without initially resorting to technological solutions.

Fark is just as successful as MetaFilter, I think, at creating an enjoyable online community. Drew Curtis and Co. have different goals from M. Haughey et al.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:35 PM on July 17, 2009

posted by starman at 3:35 PM on July 17, 2009

Honestly, I found Metafilter when googling about eliot smith's death. A few weeks later I wanted to check up on something and I wondered what that weird blue website without any pictures (little did I know, because there were img tags back then) and lots of people interesting input might have to say on the matter. That was the end for me, and the beginning. Shit answer, but that's fucking life isn't it.
posted by Elmore at 3:35 PM on July 17, 2009

^ I used to spell his name right back then.
posted by Elmore at 3:36 PM on July 17, 2009

Just kind of curious if there's a lot of common denominators (Compuserve, The Well, etc?)

posted by nanojath at 3:39 PM on July 17, 2009

I spent some time in Salon's Table Talk when it was free (does it even exist anymore?). I don't even remember my username there. I also spent many an hour at e-sangha, a buddhist forum. Both of these were filled with well-spoken, intellectual types who know how to craft a sentence and structure a debate. However, I spent much more of my time in asinine chatrooms, so there ya go. I really don't recall how I ended up here.
posted by desjardins at 3:40 PM on July 17, 2009

Well, back in 1990 I was online on Viatel, a bulletin board that I had to pay long distance phone costs to type to people I never met. Later, I became a part of a quit smoking forum that banninated a bunch of addicts for swearing and I happened to have an empty community available so I ran my own forum (about 8 years I think) until the server that was housing it stopped working. I won't say it caught on fire, but there was a distinct smell of smoke.

Running my own forum where freedom of speech AND courtesy were the key guidelines (my own) have given me an enormous respect for the admin here. It's really a fine line. And here's something else, it's harder to play with the members when you know you have the responsibility to slap them down even if they're your best forum friend.

What I have known with both my forum (still running, but elsewhere and by others) and metafilter, is a sense of coming home; of not so much being a stranger in a strange land which I tend to experience in real life when work acquaintances talk about the latest footy match or soap episode or shopping experience and my eyes glaze over, and they say, "what's wrong with you? Why do you use such big words? Why are you always reading? What's this internets stuff that you do?"
posted by b33j at 3:41 PM on July 17, 2009

back in 1990
Okay, now I'm going to get a great grandma comment, aren't I?
posted by b33j at 3:42 PM on July 17, 2009


Yeah, that too. I was part of a Milwaukee based one called Phantasy before we all went to work for what was, at the time, the biggest BBS in the world.


Best job I've ever had.
posted by quin at 3:42 PM on July 17, 2009

I recounted - it was '87.
posted by b33j at 3:44 PM on July 17, 2009

The only message board with which I've had an extended journey was The Straight Dope, which is generally considered to be a reasonably high quality board: intelligent discussion, active moderation, and a cultural ethos of "fighting ignorance" that makes "cite?" a legitimate response to pretty much any post there.

Sadly, the community has gone through some terrible ups and downs as the Chicago Reader has screwed with various means of supporting the board and the Reader. A subscription-to-post period of a couple years sent many of the more interesting members looking for other boards, and all discussion forums suffer from too small a community of regulars dominating conversations. They've gone back to free for most things, and upgraded the bulletin board software, and seem to be recovering.

Interestingly, they suffer the same problem that Metafilter does: After 10 years, there's a number of in-jokes and memes, established dogmas, community history, and general tenor that can be alienating to newer members.

[Seriously, the next time I see a post end with "amirite?", I'm going to a meetup to punch someone in the throat.]
posted by fatbird at 3:46 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Running my own forum where freedom of speech AND courtesy were the key guidelines (my own) have given me an enormous respect for the admin here.

Ditto. I moderated and then admin'd a messageboard with about 7,000 people on it and I just about had a nervous breakdown, more than once. It's serious business (especially in my case, since it was all local and almost everyone knew each other personally)
posted by empath at 3:48 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

alt.sysadmin.recovery and memepool.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 3:49 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think memepool counts as a community.

My first thought on seeing metafilter was -- 'ooh, memepool with comments!'
posted by empath at 3:50 PM on July 17, 2009

I came here from IAM.bme, which used to be about as good as Metafilter about the open-mindedness and common decency. The coup there has had serious negative consequences on the attitude of the community--such as still exists.

But, other than that, IRC (magicstar.net, mainly).
posted by Netzapper at 3:50 PM on July 17, 2009

NetZapper, any good place to read a good history of the coup? I'm totally curious how it all turned out.
posted by fatbird at 3:52 PM on July 17, 2009

Dialing into bulletin boards via their listings in Boardwatch magazine.

Then CompuServe. GEnie. NVN. Q-Link. AOL. Usenet.
posted by The Deej at 4:00 PM on July 17, 2009

dreamless.org, a message board for honest to goodness established web design folks and wannabe kids with their pir8ted copies of photoshop like myself. Run by Joshua Davis, no, not that Joshua Davis. Honestly, if that site hadn't gone under, I probably wouldn't be spending as much time here. It was a pretty special place. Some of the userbase moved on over to YayHooray which is still around I guess, but it was never the same.
posted by juv3nal at 4:00 PM on July 17, 2009

I don't know that glider has said a lot about it recently maybe due to pending litigation but I remember reading about it on his blog when it happened.
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:03 PM on July 17, 2009

uh that comment was for fatbird.
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:04 PM on July 17, 2009

Hm actually I might have read his posts on bodytwo.com, which of course redirects to bmezine now.
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:05 PM on July 17, 2009

uh that comment was for fatbird.

Yeah, I read his updates too, but of course that was one side, and neither side was very forthcoming with details for legal reasons. I'm actually more curious on BME's fortunes as it went through that period. The more I looked into Glider's blogs and relationships, the less I wanted to know.
posted by fatbird at 4:06 PM on July 17, 2009

Yeah, same here pretty much. I wasn't really able to find much when I looked a while ago but I didn't try very hard.
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:08 PM on July 17, 2009

Dialing into bulletin boards via their listings in Boardwatch magazine.

In DC they had something called Focke's List
posted by empath at 4:09 PM on July 17, 2009

Got my first modem in 1987 and signed up for a GEnie account at that time. I also called a lot of local BBSs but GEnie was my home (A2, the Apple II RoundTable was my home, but I was there at the dawn of the third age of mankind... I mean, for the creation of Babylon 5... in the SF RT). I got my first Internet e-mail address shortly thereafter, spent a lot of time on USENET... didn't care much for Web forums at first because, hey, why would anyone bother writing a comment in a crappy browser window when you could be using a purpose-built USENET client? Then came MetaFilter.
posted by kindall at 4:11 PM on July 17, 2009

At family get-togethers, it is now a tradition that after we have all fed ourselves up and are bloated and sleepy, my father will cast his eye over the table, take everyone in, snort or grunt and then, as a broad grin spreads across his face, will utter: God, I hate you bastards.

I love that fuzzy warm feeling, and that's how I feel now for Meta's 10. You fucking assholes.
posted by Elmore at 4:15 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

I spent many years on Fark.com , but the signal/noise ratio got out of hand and it just wasnt worth the time investment anymore. It makes me sad, because I met some good friends there.

I discovered (and continue to come to) Metafilter because the constructive/positive content is consistently high quality. I credit that mostly to the adult attitude everyone brings to Mefi and the the mods and community police itself in a very skilled manner. If I had more time, I'd hang out on Meta.Talk a little more to see the seedy-underbelly.. :)... but I'm not sure I'm worthy just yet :)
posted by jmnugent at 4:21 PM on July 17, 2009

Lower Lights BBS, along with a competitor, Digital Adventures.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:22 PM on July 17, 2009

And following starman's link I see I already mentioned LL. Heh.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:24 PM on July 17, 2009

b33j: back in 1990 I was online on Viatel ... Okay, now I'm going to get a great grandma comment, aren't I? ... I recounted - it was '87

Heh. I'd pretty much given up on Viatel by then. I got an account in '84, but I know I'd given it up before '88, because I remember calling them up from my new work location about the totally random bills they'd been sending me for the previous couple of years. By that time I was also giving up on most of the local BBS systems, desperately railing against the homogenisation that FidoNET was bringing. I hung around, on and off, on the few remaining local non-Opus boards before hanging up my (1200/1200 bd) modem somewhere around '90.
posted by Pinback at 4:30 PM on July 17, 2009

Various BBS's. Usenet. IRC. CompuServe. Q-Link. AOL. Several sci-fi mailing lists. Livejournal. Slashdot. Fark. And others I'm probably not remembering.
posted by zarq at 4:32 PM on July 17, 2009

CompuServe CB Simulator around 1986-88. And then I was developing NAPLPS apps for Prodigy so I was on that service's boards. Dial-up pirate BBSes in 1988-91 or so. USENET in '91-'97, mostly rec.pool and rec.sailing but of course alt.shenanigans (and therefore briefly alt.clearing.technology). Then I joined MetaFilter in May of 2000 and of course gave up all the rest.
posted by nicwolff at 4:32 PM on July 17, 2009

posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:37 PM on July 17, 2009

Pinback: Heh. I'd pretty much given up on Viatel by then.

I guess the f:m ratio worked better for me than for you. I remember being 1 of only 2 girls - it was a nice ego boost. :)
posted by b33j at 4:38 PM on July 17, 2009

usenet, esp rec.bicycles.tech
and then fark...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:41 PM on July 17, 2009

Straight Dope Message Board (where I first heard of Metafilter but could not join as it was a gated community, although I posted during the login/login fiasco.) to Linkfilter and Monkeyfilter to here.
posted by 517 at 4:42 PM on July 17, 2009

a myers-briggs INTP list (jubjub, not ciredata for any fellow intpers ou there)
posted by cpdavy at 4:54 PM on July 17, 2009

For me it was bulletin boards first, then a bit of participation on GEnie, then regular postings in newsgroups for a while. Since then, most of my non-read-only online activity was in an online game or two, and of course the usual IM conversations with friends.

The quality of discussion on MetaFilter is actually what encouraged me to get into the online discussions in message-posting format thing again. Which I think is sort of the reverse of the hypothesis at the start of this thread.

The earlier stuff had pretty much set my expectations that online discussions weren't worth participating in any more, and reading MetaFilter for a while reset my expectations higher.
posted by FishBike at 5:00 PM on July 17, 2009

My fora were around my interests: graphics and music. First was graphics w4r3z IRC chats in the mid-to-late 1990s where I realized I liked to search for information for people, then bouncing around Hotline (though that wasn't so much a community as it was a network of warez and MP3 exchanges). I hopped around some skinning and modding group sites, but never got too involved. Discogs was my next real community site, focused on music. I helped review submissions to the music database, which was a lot of fun. The site management is kind of messy, so there's an attempt to branch off and start something new, but it's gone pretty quiet as of late. My brother sent me a link he saw on Metafilter, I was lurking for a while. I initially balked at the $5 one-time fee, but clearly I paid, and now I'm very happy here.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:03 PM on July 17, 2009

posted by jessamyn

When clicking on that link, there's this text ad to the right:

Jessamyn at Amazon.com
Save on jessamyn!
Qualified orders over $25 ship free
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:05 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

BBS's -> AOL -> Opendiary
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:10 PM on July 17, 2009


meow - also slashdot, plastic and k5
posted by pyramid termite at 5:20 PM on July 17, 2009

memepool, and IRC. Those were the decent places. There are other web-boards that are kind of crap that I've been on longer. Never really found a place called home until here. I luv u guyz.*

*standard disclaimer still applies
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 5:21 PM on July 17, 2009

BBSs and everything2
posted by brundlefly at 5:22 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was on Usenet in high school. Everyone treated me like an idiot for having an AOL account, at least until they saw that I could and would spell. I think it taught me to behave online. (It was also pretty awesome to see Terry Pratchett himself go off on a funny tear from one of my posts.)

I started browsing this site in 2002, but signups weren't open for so long. I got a different logon in '04 or so, but I wasn't interested in the forum-ing so much at that point and by the time I wanted to participate again, I was tired of the name, so I got a new one.

I used to be on SomethingAwful with a different name. It's got pretty good policing and I still dig the humor, but there are just too many manchildren and I got tired of being the uncool older sister in the room.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:25 PM on July 17, 2009

Other than music lists (Bomp, Chalkhills, and Audities) I never had any desire to join any kind of forum or web group until I stumbled upon this place. MeFi was the place that actually made me start thinking of the internet as a community.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:34 PM on July 17, 2009

Almost exclusively the merv.competitiverunning.stanford.edu bulletin board. (1994?-2001 RIP)

So, like this is a huge step up in terms of geekiness for me. I like to think that my post-athletic life has allowed my inner geek to diversify.

My sister was a long term Well member, but she's cooler than me and lurks here once in a while.
posted by stagewhisper at 5:37 PM on July 17, 2009

Usenet Usenet Usenet
posted by ersatzkat at 5:41 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Note: EVERYONE on Usenet needed a hug
posted by ersatzkat at 5:42 PM on July 17, 2009

This is the only forum I've ever posted more then 200 comments on. People say that you can be tough hiding behind a keyboard online since its anonymous, but nope, I'm a total wuss online.
posted by lilkeith07 at 5:42 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

GEnie and the rec.arts.sf* hierarchy.
posted by Justinian at 5:43 PM on July 17, 2009

FidoNet, WWIVnet, local BBSes, usenet, slashdot
posted by Rhomboid at 5:44 PM on July 17, 2009

rec.arts.bodyart and library email lists, then later slashdot, mostly. And yeah, some file-sharing stuff.
posted by box at 5:51 PM on July 17, 2009

Local BBS's, then Usenet. The only forum I've ever belonged to was "titled forum project", which completely imploded due to horrible moderator in-fighting and general powertrip douchebaggery. Other than that I stick to IRC (even today).
posted by cj_ at 5:53 PM on July 17, 2009

nthing the BBS history. Metafilter and pre-2002 Livejournal are the only sites I've found that have a similar feel to the boards.
posted by bunnytricks at 5:55 PM on July 17, 2009

ISCA BBS and Indiana University's Forum. I recognize at least one other Forumite here on MeFi.

There was a really nasty political guy on Forum. I had him over to my house for dinner because I thought I'd do my part to help online people be more civil with each other. I don't know if it did any good. I went through a crackup and ended up in the army. That's where I made the best use of ISCA, connecting to it from Korea, where I managed to get a routine orderly room job turned into a weird second shift setup so I could abuse the unit dialup connection and ProComm to telnet into a friendly account in Alaska and then hop over to Iowa. For whatever reason I couldn't get a direct route to Iowa from Korea.

Anyhow, Forum was the last place I was very participatory or combative, and ISCA BBS taught me the value of lurking. Lurking a lot.
posted by mph at 5:56 PM on July 17, 2009

BBSs (1200 baud modem!), Usenet, and an X-Files mailing list for Scully fans.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:12 PM on July 17, 2009

alt.fan.kia-mennie! Which now falls under the 'things that make me go scarlet' category. That, and the rest of Usenet.

Before that a BBS-y FreeNet...
posted by kmennie at 6:13 PM on July 17, 2009

Seems like MeFites came here from a lot of different places. I bet you'd see more in common if you asked what event or story got people here.

I first started lurking here in 2001 after reading on Salon about how MetaFilter had blown the lid off the Kaycee Nicole story. I finally joined up late in 2002.

I spent a lot of time on Salon back then. But it got more and more frustrating as they got worse and worse about the hoops you had to go thru to get their site for free. I don't think they do this as much anymore, but I wouldn't really know since I mostly gave up on Salon and moved my online life over to MetaFilter.
posted by marsha56 at 6:20 PM on July 17, 2009

I was on local BBSs, on Usenet a while, and then on the Straight Dope message boards for a long time under this name. I was one of the people who left when they implemented the clumsy pay scheme, and it's interesting to note that what everyone predicted would happen happened.
posted by MrVisible at 6:23 PM on July 17, 2009

Lifehacker Weekly AskMeFi Weekly Roundup.
posted by litterateur at 6:23 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I bet you'd see more in common if you asked what event or story got people here.

Yeah, but we've done that a million times before :)
posted by empath at 6:25 PM on July 17, 2009


Then usenet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 PM on July 17, 2009

I hung out at Aqua-Soft for about two years before discovering MeFi in 2004.
posted by limeonaire at 6:34 PM on July 17, 2009

I've been thinking about this a bit lately, largely the similarities and differences between Metafilter & the other message board where I spend the other 50% of my internet time, Thelifeboat.net (powered by good old phpbb). We're sort of a splinter group of 1999-2002-era MacNN message boards.

Back in the dark ages of dial-up, I went to install Netscape 6 one day, and the installer blew up real good, and scattered files all over my desktop, so I went in search of info about this craptacular software, which led my to MacNN, where I signed up and gradually became enmeshed with the culture there. The antics of the NN Lounge of that era were legend, and it was where I got my first dose of on-line community. I think it was a link in the lounge there that led me originally to Metafilter. (Registration was CLOSED.) Eventually, as some of us matured a bit and the message board around us didn't, a couple folks got the idea to start a sort of sub-forum, that one of us registered as omgwtfbbq.net. "The BBQ" lasted about 2 years, and was a pretty cool, if utterly politically incorrect, place to hang out -- utter insanity, photoshoppery, sarcastic rudeness, etc. were the order of the day. The guy adminning the site got disenchanted after a couple years though, when it plateaued at 500 or so members, and he shut the thing down precipitously, a week after promoting a really horrid SA goon to admin, and letting them wreck the place for fun. I'm sure to him it was a laugh-riot, but there were quite a few of us feeling like we'd just witnessed the sinking of the Titanic, and after gnashing our teeth and rending our shirts over AIM for a few days, a good samaritan fired up the phpbb as a sub-domain on his webspace, and we clambered aboard a few at a time.

We eventually got our own real-life URL, and just celebrated five years a couple months ago, which as you all know, is 250 years in internet-time. The similarities? We've become a pretty tight-knit group, with a common interest in keeping the thing floating, because we all care about the community. The level of discourse is head & shoulders above any place except here, of course, and when there are community problems, they are hashed out by a similar mix of self-policing, thoughtful, wise moderation, and the occasional flame-fest and stomping-off. We have, I'm proud to day, only banned ONE person who was just intractable.

The populace is pretty educated & successful -- we've got me, the world's greatest T-shirt printer, and erstwhile bassist, an ad executive, a commercial airline pilot, a college chemistry professor, a genetic researcher, an architect, a film maker, 3 professional photographers (we have cameras, too, but we paid full price for ours, unfortunately) a Shakespearian actor & high school drama teacher, a print designer, several web designers, two philosophy students named Mike, a Mac store employee, a linguist (fluent in 8 languages, I think), a master brewer, a database manager for Three InitCo, several software engineers & a computer hardware service tech. He has the best true stories of us all. We run the gamut of experience, and learn stuff from each other all the time.

By now, the majority of us have met at least a few other members in real life, so friendships have sprung up, largely through meetups, three of which have been multi-day affairs attended by a revolving cast of up to 20 people, over the course of a week, at our gracious host's house in Wustah, MA. We love our books, and we love our film. It was at a boatshow that I was originally introduced to Withnail & I, which alone was worth the price of the plane ticket. Moby Dick & A Confederacy of Dunces were brought into my life by 'boaters. We represent 5 continents. In these ways, it's very much like Metafilter.

The difference? We don't get many joiners. Who knows why. Why did Metafilter's membership skyrocket the way it did and not the Lifeboat's? Maybe it's the blog vs. BB interface. (we used to have a nice custom theme until phpbb 3, and now we can't have nice things any more) Maybe we're purposefully insular. We've planed out at about 140 members, with about 60 or so contributing on anything like a regular basis. That's the main difference, really. I think we're mostly happy that way, though fresh meat is fun when it clambers aboard, every once in a while.

I've gotta say by contrasting the two, I'm pretty amazed at how well MF has scaled. It's not like there's no heated disagreements and assholery whatsoever, but it gets worked out one way or another, and hey, 4.5 really kick-ass people are making a living off of it which is awesome. I use that word too much, also.

Thanks, guys.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:37 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Usenet. Oh usenet, how I loved you.

How I agonized over my comments; little did I realize I needn't have bothered, really....
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:37 PM on July 17, 2009

That and I was (am?) a moderator on the now-mostly-defunct Missouri Scholars Academy Invision board, site administrator for a startup blogging site, Jablog.com, and a Direct Connect mod.

Those + Aqua-Soft + AIM = the bulk of where I spent my time online 2002–2004.
posted by limeonaire at 6:42 PM on July 17, 2009

Other than music lists (Bomp, Chalkhills, and Audities)...

OMG Chalkhills! I forgot Chalkhills! John Relph rules for keeping that site up all this time. I don't think of email digests as online communities, but I'm still a subscriber. Neddie Jingo, nee Harrison Sherwood was/is a Chalkhillian. Great stuff. Subscribed in '94, I think. It sorta crested with the release of Apple Venus, though. Good times those were.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:43 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Prodigy boards, originally.
posted by Atreides at 6:45 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Indielist-L 1993-1995
Some anarchist librarians listservs and things 1998-2000
Indiebride 2002-2004

There were other flirtations, but those have been my LTRs.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:47 PM on July 17, 2009

Slashdot and Plastic and a little bit on KuroShin but that got tired real fast.
posted by octothorpe at 6:48 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Devil's Rancher:

You know you're about to see a surge, right?
posted by Netzapper at 6:49 PM on July 17, 2009

Maggy Donea's mindspace was my first serious forum home, where the only moderation was community shaming, 1997-ish. I kinda wish we'd rely on that more here, and have less mod deletions, but I kinda get the sense I'm in the minority with that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:54 PM on July 17, 2009

URL scrawled on napkin left on mattress in crack house on 128th street.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:55 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know you're about to see a surge, right?

Doubtful. I've talked about it here, before and it's been linked from my profile for 5 years. We had one MeFi joiner, once. She fit in great, was super-cool & fun, but just went away after about 6 months.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:56 PM on July 17, 2009

Too many commas, which are habit-forming. Sorry. I'll try to cut down a little.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:58 PM on July 17, 2009

Live/Deadjournal (and their many spinoff sites) & SomethingAwful.

I actually found MetaFilter in the first place through a link on a JournalFen community called otf_wank, which was basically about people having arguments on the internet.

I'm pretty sure it was a link to a circumcision argument.
posted by srrh at 7:06 PM on July 17, 2009

The State of Maryland had some sort of public access BBS service when I was in high school, but it wasn't particularly interesting except as a gateway to other gopher setups. I eventually ended up on the Buffalo Freenet, which gave me a real email address and a web page, even though I was out of state. I was only able to use it about half an hour a day, so I never got involved in the community aspects of the thing. All I can remember is an exchange with some dude who was writing a sequel to Atlas Shrugged (not the cool Bob the Angry Flower type of sequel, but apparently one that would really hammer home how right John Galt was).

The next summer I lucked into a course at the state university that gave me an ID and shell access, so I installed SLiRP and abandoned the text-based, interactive net and became a passive consumer of the graphical world wide web.
posted by zhwj at 7:17 PM on July 17, 2009


I'm a dork. I found metafilter because it was one of Time's best 25 websites.

It is hard to remember, but before metafilter I think I used to lurk on the Swampland comments and the TWoP boards (before they got bought out by Bravo - not that I have anything against Bravo, but TWoP hasn't been the same since).

I'm not a teenager, but Metafilter is really my first internet love. /sigh
posted by jeoc at 7:26 PM on July 17, 2009

I lived in alt.1d for way too long.

This is better.
posted by ook at 7:43 PM on July 17, 2009

I have some moderately embarrassing Usenet posts to my name, but my first real "forum" experience was a site called Hissyfit.com, which was by the same folks who created TelevisionWithoutPity (or MightyBigTV, as it was known back in the day). One day Hissyfit shut down their forums without warning and I was cast adrift for years until drifting up on the shores of Metafilter.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:44 PM on July 17, 2009

Kingdom of Loathing. Actually heard of this site through Riff, a writer for the game (his MeFi name is Rifflesby and he posts fairly frequently, too).

Before MetaFilter I was fairly active in the community of the Kingdom, or KOL for short. Like this one, it's largely a very kind, intelligent, and thoughtful community. They also have the same opinion on proper spelling that MetaFilter has. I kind of have this thing for KOL because of it, and one of these days I may do a several paragraphs long rant on how it made me who I am, internet or not. Maybe someone's chatfilter in another post, but not today. It's amazed me what finding a community on the internet can do if you fit in.

Thanks to both MeFi and KOL for not being a bunch of anonymous jerks, and especially being cool.
posted by Askiba at 7:57 PM on July 17, 2009

Other than music lists (Bomp, Chalkhills, and Audities)...

OMG Chalkhills! I forgot Chalkhills! John Relph rules for keeping that site up all this time. I don't think of email digests as online communities, but I'm still a subscriber. Neddie Jingo, nee Harrison Sherwood was/is a Chalkhillian. Great stuff. Subscribed in '94, I think. It sorta crested with the release of Apple Venus, though. Good times those were.

Woohoo! Another Chalkhills subscriber here! I haven't kept up with it much in the last few years, but it was great to have when I was living in the middle of nowhere west Texas in the late 90s.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:02 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

AOL M4M. Manhunt.
posted by ericb at 8:03 PM on July 17, 2009

Slashdot and Plastic. I didn't do much on either site.
posted by carter at 8:06 PM on July 17, 2009

BBS's, Usenet, The Phlogistician's Corner (linked from Mosaic and now a back-water frequented by a very few die-hards), and memepool (I have a tee-shirt from way back).

I have no memory of how I found MetaFilter.
posted by idest at 8:08 PM on July 17, 2009

*bookmarks thread for posting stories in later*
posted by loquacious at 8:20 PM on July 17, 2009

I have no memory of how I found MetaFilter.

Neither do I. And it was only, like, six months ago for me.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:30 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Slashdot, the off-topic section of my college's CS department online forums, and an message board run just for my direct circle of friends (mostly CS majors at the same college).

These three places are where I originally developed my libertarian viewpoints. Within a year they were also why I started to loathe most libertarian platforms and many of libertarianism's more enthusiastic advocates.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:37 PM on July 17, 2009

Though I hardly qualify as a 'hardcore metafilter user:'

GEnie (Genie Users RT)
Bianca's smut shack
The internet oracle
NANAE (mostly read-only, back when combating spammers didn't seem like such a ridiculously pointless activity)
The internal panix.* newsgroups (also mostly read-only)

Found metafilter via powazek, megnut, kottke, memepool, etc.
Stopped reading them, never really stopped reading MeFi. Had a mostly read-only account for years (starting when it was free, I think? Hard to remember, I'm pretty sure it was before the closed sign-up thing), then decided to start participating more and got a new account for five bucks.
posted by ctmf at 9:10 PM on July 17, 2009

Wow, that's stretching the old memory gland. Lemme see.

1982: The Australian Beginning showed me what an online service probably shouldn't be like. Then assorted BBSes showed me what it probably should be. The MICOM BBS even had a cabal-only section, the "Silly Section", accessible only by invitation. I still have some reams of 15" fanfold printout from that somewhere, I think. The Silly Section looked a lot like the longest of MeTa longboats, but we could only paddle at 30 characters per second (if I recall correctly, at some point Peter installed a second modem so three people could do "instant" chat at once). Good times.

The first Internet-based things I ever got involved with were the low-carb and atheism forums at about.com.

I found MeFi via blort (come back, quonsar, you are missed) and now very rarely go anywhere else. Lurked a bit at Something Awful, dipped my toe in Fark, but I don't think I got much on me.
posted by flabdablet at 9:16 PM on July 17, 2009

Genie, then the comp.sys.mac hierarchies followed by alt.folklore.urban before ending up here. I'm subconsciously stalking kindall, I guess, because he's always in a community when I join it.
posted by joaquim at 9:52 PM on July 17, 2009

Slashdot, Usenet, kuro5hin, reddit.
posted by idiopath at 10:56 PM on July 17, 2009

BBS's, Usenet, Fark, Slashdot.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:58 PM on July 17, 2009

I'm surprised that no-one other than octothorpe has mentioned kuro5hin, which, for a brief window of time - perhaps eight to 10 years ago - contained some of the best writing on the web. I really liked the site's approach of encouraging posters to write essays, pontifications, broadsheets and fiction that was then critiqued and commented on by members.

It was there, I believe, that I heard Metafilter referred to as that other site, so I came and looked. I found equally intelligent discussion, generated by a larger and more varied community, better features (and mods who were willing to listen to feedback and work on adding more) and less drama. The posts tended not to be as in-depth, but they were more timely, and more frequent. (And some, such as felix's HMS Resolute post, are the equal to anything found on kuro5hin in its salad years).

Before that, it was mostly Slashdot, Usenet, and BBS's. Slashdot I'll still read every other day, but as we were discussing in the Calgary meetup (for which I've just returned), Metafilter has this wonderful quality of being a near-perfect filter and funnel for most everything that is important to me: I know that if something is of interest to me, it will, almost inevitably, get to Metafilter one way or another. Toss in the delight of serendipity and maintain just the right level of geekiness, and there's little reason for me to be anywhere else.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:13 PM on July 17, 2009

My first real internet community experience was a multi-line 2400 baud Portland BBS called the Blue Confabulation, which I got onto via an invite from my friend Kacy when I was a sophomore in high school. I was more lurker than visible participant, but I hung around for a while and so people started to recognize me. I got in occasional arguments with the resident fightmeister, which was when I first started grappling with my conflicting attraction to and kinda visceral negative emotional reactions to heated online argument.

I went to a meetup at the Pioneer Place Mall food cart one time, but realized once I got there that I didn't really know what anybody who would be there looked or sounded like. It took a while to track them down, and once I did I didn't really have anything to say.

I went to another BBS meetup in highschool after having met a girl online and chatting with her for a while. I called her up at her prompting, too—this was late at night, and not something I had ever really done before—and was clueless enough not to be able to read warning signs into her really hardcore validation-seeking questions. I'm like seventeen and sheltered, I don't know anything. Finding out in person that she was a twenty-something single mom and an emotional wreck was just the icing on the weirdness cake.

I haven't thought about those in a while; it's funny, I love metafilter meetups in part because they're nothing like those situations were, but the part of me that gets a little edgy before a meetup even now must remember those weird old days of being a dumb kid who didn't know what he was walking into.

I've got a tremendous amount of sympathy for shy types trying to get up the nerve to go to their first mefi meetup.

Anyway, after high school I started spending more serious time on USENET, splitting my attention in college between wpi.flame and alt.religion.kibology. Time in the former went to further mucking about with that love/hate relationship with online hollering; time in the latter helped me realize that there were better ways to spend my time if what I wanted to spend my time doing was sharing space on the internet with other clever people.

I lost terminal access to USENET sometime during the summer after I graduated, in 2001, and stopped keeping up with a.r.k as a result, which is kind of a shame.

I'd already mostly given up on wpi.flame by then anyway; some part of me had finally figured out that there was something wrong with a manner of discourse where, even when I felt I'd Come Out Ahead, I was still enervated and upset. It took me longer to really formally admit all that to myself, and even knowing better now I still struggle with it, but something in the panicky transition from college student to young, jobless adult helped me grow up a little bit on that front.

I joined mefi in 2001 but didn't become really active until 2005, when I got laid off from the market research job I'd had for a few years and spent a couple months on unemployment until my next gig started up. I started hanging out in IRC at the same time, getting to know the regulars in #tapes or whichever iteration of the channel was active at that point.

I think by that point I'd grown up enough to mostly be decent and check myself and try and focus on either civil discussion/argument or fun creative interactions and leave the aggro bullshit and the nastiness-for-nastiness's-sake stuff by the wayside. Most of the time, at least.

In that respect, and knowing that as much as anything just time and the experience of stumbling through previous online interactions got me to where I was by the time I started really participating heavily here, I'm glad I didn't find mefi sooner. I'd like as not have been an ass with a three digit usernumber and have arsed off in a huff inside of a year, and still be working at an insurance company right now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:14 PM on July 17, 2009

I started out in MSN public chat (which no longer exists) then moved on to MSN Groups (which also no longer exist) but in the midst of all that I found Metafilter while searching for infomation on something (wish I could remember what) and I was immediately addicted to reading and lurking. Then I joined in December 2006 when vacapinta offered gift memberships in a MetaTalk post.

I still maintain regular contact with a small cadre of friends from my MSN days (and we congregate around a niche forum that is, sadly, a shadow of what it was in its MSN glory days) but Metafilter is by far the best internet forum I've ever participated in.
posted by amyms at 11:15 PM on July 17, 2009

I'm surprised that no-one other than octothorpe has mentioned kuro5hin

I spent a little time on kuro5hin, not so much for it's own merits (sorry, rusty) as for it's status as the New Hotness, the Not-Slashdot. I liked the idea of the place and participated a little I think, but it never stuck for me.

Going to a linux/OSS-happy tech school around the turn of the millennium, it was hard not to have accounts at or at least a conversant familiarity with most of those sites, and Slashdot was pretty hard to get away from even if you didn't like it. I remember being pretty excited about Advogato when it was starting up, but I never really got into it either. Everything (and then 2) was the same story. I'm sure there are others. None of them ever quite hooked me, for whatever reason.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:18 PM on July 17, 2009

In high school I decided that I wanted to be on the "bleeding edge" of information. 24 hr news cycles wasn't doing anything for me. I found Boing Boing, which led me to Fark (for some reason) and Fark led to Digg. Sometime in there I went to Reddit and Metafilter, kind of at the same time.

Recently on reddit there was an uproar from a more prominent user. He would have very long and thoughtful posts get a negative score because he was suddenly a moderator (moderator's names show up in green) and as a result people are just down-voting all the posts that he would make, regardless of content, just because the user-base has an issue with authority.

I like reddit, but I think it's growing too quickly. There's a population of users there that are seriously petty, and there is no release-valve that metafilter has here. There are no rules, just about everything is decided by majority rule.

At the meetup today, I mentioned that reddit allows users to make their own subsites, and everyone at the table sort of groaned, as if they know what's in store for the little startup site. I wonder if reddit will be here in 10 years.
posted by hellojed at 11:20 PM on July 17, 2009

I started out on Ward and Randy's BBS, moved to Chinet after a while, then discovered ddials and eventually Fidonet and Usenet. Then this Internet thing came along with pitchers and all....
posted by pjern at 11:37 PM on July 17, 2009

Usenet and Compuserve.

I've now seen a few members (flabdablet, madamejujujive) say that they found Metafilter through blort. Did it used to be bigger or have a big community or something? How did people find out about blort? I always thought that blort got traffic because of quonsar's reputation on Metafilter, but apparently the direction of influence is reversed.
posted by painquale at 11:51 PM on July 17, 2009

Sweet, sweet internets didn't really make it to the valley where I grew up in any substantial way until the late nineties, when the local radio station wrangled up some dial-up service to sell to listeners in the valley's two small towns. I was in high school at the time and really only dimly aware of the web and its uses, so once my family wound up with internet service, I spent my first month or so online just sort of blundering around with Alta Vista, mostly looking at shitty comic book sites and Geocities pages. I was aware of web-porn, of course, but under the impression that even dialing in porny search terms would expose one's machine to a myriad of spooky viruses.

I never did ask how it happened, but somehow my brother stumbled upon this chat site called The Park - I looked over his shoulder and my mind was blown. I only had the vaguest notion of how folks communicated with one another online - like, I grokked e-mail well enough, but here was this site where my brother could talk to total strangers instantly, using any name he pleased! And The Park had all these little sub-rooms for specific interests and discussion topics - dozens and dozens of them! I'm pretty sure there was a "poetry room" and a few city-specific rooms, and an "adults-only" wing, with a few dozen sub-rooms of its own, for folks who just came for the cybersex. It's hard to recall all the categories now - I think there might have been one for vegetarianism, one for every major religion and quite a few minor ones. The variety was overwhelming.

Anyhow, my brother got bored with it after a couple hours and I hopped on. See, as a kid with zero social skills in a tiny town, I was absolutely starved for anyone else to talk to aside from, you know, all the kids who I'd been going to school with since the first grade. The added bonus of anonymous internet talking was that my massive social anxiety and (at the time) out of control fatness didn't really enter into it. I could just say stuff and it would be okay. I could have a conversation without worrying myself sick that the person I was talking to wasn't secretly snickering about my big fat ass. I hadn't felt so free in any social setting whatsoever since kintergarten, and maybe not even then.

The room I wound up spending way, way, way too much time, mental and emotional energy on was "The Philosophy Room" - not that we ever spoke of philosophy, mind. I mean, there was one guy who found a way to wedge a Nietzsche quote into any and all conversations, but mostly it was just a bunch of bored, lonely nerds having mostly vapid, frequently contentious and occasionally hilarious conversations by way of a .cgi script on a server somewhere in San Francisco. I kind of regret spending so much of my teens online, but in retrospect, it makes sense - this was the first taste of social success I could remember. Of course I wouldn't leave it alone. In time, I wouldn't even bother going to the main Park page first - though I never made a conscious effort to memorize it, I discovered one day that I just sort of knew the specific URL for the Philosophy Room.

All I can say about it today is that I am relieved beyond description that my activity in The Park was not archived in the way it is here on Metafilter. Merciful Odin what a disaster that would be! A lot of the relationships I formed on that board got pretty damn intense, continuing long after The Park itself was shuttered. It was in fact someone I had first met there who turned me on to MeFi. I lurked for three to four years before signing up.

So, I've been an active participant in exactly two online communities: The Park and Metafilter. Obviously, this one's substantially better. A permanent record of your posting history cuts way own on the anonymous asshattery and the active MeFi mod squad makes a marked difference in the general quality of conduct. Brent Hunter seemed like a nice guy, but he just sort of wound up his site and let it run riot. That said, I'd like to see any of our mighty MeFi mods rock this sweater harder than Hunter.
posted by EatTheWeek at 1:54 AM on July 18, 2009

In 1999 I got a free website on Fortune City, and for a while I was an active participant on the forums there. Later I was also a regular on Builder Buzz (Builder's Buzz?) which was part of a now-defunct developers' website. I'm still active on The Well.

I used to lurk at Kuro5hin and Dreamless.org, though I don't think I ever had an account at either of those places.
posted by rjs at 2:48 AM on July 18, 2009

(Whoa, my site at Fortune City that hasn't been updated since 2000 is still there, with an account of my time there and why I left.)
posted by rjs at 3:00 AM on July 18, 2009

Hissyfit - so long ago that I'd almost forgotten it existed.
posted by t0astie at 5:42 AM on July 18, 2009

My first online forum experience/obsession was a teen message board on AOL in the mid-1990s. (I was a teen at the time. I'm not creepy. Or at least, I'm not creepy like that). It was actually a really good experience. Really! I learned a ton. I stayed in touch with people I first met there. I've met some of them in real life. Really! AOL. I know.

It fostered my love of discussing a variety of topics with strangers online which eventually led me to Metafilter.
posted by lampoil at 6:13 AM on July 18, 2009

Bitnet, IRC, Usenet, and so forth. Writing for some 'zines. I suppose everything2 was my first web community. I loved everything2 because it was dying.

When I first bothered to make an account, it was on the Way Up, but anyone could see that it was toast, purely on the basis of its policies. Was there a lot of content? Yeah! Was it growing? Yeah! Slashdot, a powerhouse at the time, was pimping it hard. But it wasn't healthy, the same way you can watch someone who has some serious problems with their drug intake look good for a while, but know that, unless a drastic change occurs, they're toast. Just before that, though, you get a kind of this pure glow under the skin, and it's beautiful the way an orchid can be beautiful just before it goes slippery with rot.

I lurked. Just a handful of contributions, some sockpuppeting. I was there mostly to see if it would die the way I expected, as the result of its own Policies. I'd been watching various 'net communities bloom and croak for some time, and here was a Very Big Sample.

What happened is more or less what I expected — the conflicts about What Gets Written drove off a lot of people who were there, doing creative and interesting and highly personal things, in favor of the dry and abstract. Webster 1913 style, yo. And then Wikipedia came along and ate their lunch, OM nom nom nom. Suddenly the Scientology-like leveling up wasn't attractive enough, and the writers of poetry and short fiction had mostly been driven away. People who heard a lot of "don't do that here" had gone elsewhere to do their thing.

Now, everything2 looks like a modern coral reef to me: lovely frozen organic shapes, the labor of many many years, and the realization that while a little bit is still being laid down, you're primarily looking at a skeleton.
posted by adipocere at 6:41 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

memepool was the first community devoted to quality of which i encountered. later i realized part of what made that community work was that it was small and did not allow for comments. somewhere someone wrote about similarities and differences between memepool and metafilter and i decided to take a look which brought me here a couple of years before i registered this username to sit and do nothing.
mefi became a place for good links once memepool started slowing down and the web became more delicious.

otherwise, i was part of various fora where the communities all had differing kinds and amounts of dysfunction. people simply revert back to a primitive frame of mind when they post and when they comment. i used to try to have constructive conversations with proper grammar and capitalization which would take an hour to construct when i was a naive idealist. these days, however, i embrace my own cynicism and laziness. so do many of my online peers who post here, there, and everywhere.
posted by the aloha at 7:08 AM on July 18, 2009

rec.arts.comics.* -> Warren Ellis Forum -> Plastic -> The V -> MetaFilter
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 7:26 AM on July 18, 2009

poker forums. Started reading a Maryland Poker Forum then Daniel Negraneu's FCP then graduated to twoplustwo when I actually wanted to learn how to play. Those forums were pretty wild back in the day--gamblers do love their autonomy-- but they eventually became stultifying for anything other than poker strategy. I like MeF. because its an alternative to the no-rules anarchist battleground I started with...sometimes a little civility is a refreshing change of pace.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:28 AM on July 18, 2009

BBS, then AOL (I was a mod for the gay and lesbian community forum there for about a year), then various and sundry communities there and elsewhere.
posted by disclaimer at 7:44 AM on July 18, 2009

Nthing Usenet, memepool, and the "Blogger, Year One" crew.
posted by eamondaly at 8:01 AM on July 18, 2009

My first big internet experience was a Usenet-like (and full of Usenet vets) mailing list called Mattnet made up of Rice and Trinity alums. Thanks for civilizing me in a place with no records before sending me out into the wider internet, guys. Then I was heavily involved in "warblogging" for several years. In the early days there really was a community of "warbloggers", before the right libertarians and the liberals learned to hate each other's guts. It took a few years before political blogging got too big and too dysfunctional for my taste.

I've been on a lot of other social networking sites, but I'd say those were the two that helped me learn how to argue, and more importantly, how (not) to behave.
posted by immlass at 8:07 AM on July 18, 2009

Citadel-86 for a decade or so. Very much like MetaFilter.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:10 AM on July 18, 2009

Hi, I'm from 4chan and I could fornicate with a plate of beans.

Er, I mean, the only actual community I ever participated in was rec.arts.comics.creative (Omega!) Metafilter is the first place I've actually signed up with to participate since then. And I lurked here for about seven years before paying $5.

As you can probably guess, I'm a blast at parties.
posted by cimbrog at 8:19 AM on July 18, 2009

You seriously think I'm going to tell you where I sprewed my teenage bile and shame in this, the age of Google?

Very foolish emptah. Very.
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

In fact, my last comment there (September 4, 2002) was also the EXACT day I posted my first here.

Awww, your MetaFilter Birthday is the same as my actual birthday! I turned 21 on that day and drank a margarita the size of my head. It was a good day.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:16 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, to answer the question. I hung out in a lot of chat rooms (IRC and whatnot) in high school because it was better than talking to "my peers." Then LJ, then MetaFilter. I was introduced to the site by another user who was himself a long time lurker before signups opened, and when they did, we both signed up at the same time. Since we were in Iceland and he had to use *my* American debit card to do so (his card only worked magnetically, no happy numbers), I bought an account as well.

I've paid less for MetaFilter than I have for paid LJ accounts and I would happily reverse that.

(I talk online *almost* as much as I do in person. As in, constantly.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:22 AM on July 18, 2009

OP:...because I'm more curious about the hardcore metafilter users that read MeTa.

I'm more of a hardcore lurker on MeTa, but this thread seems fit for this question:

Anyone here used to go on the Squishy/pamie forums? I used to "be" there ALL the TIME...sort of like am I here now on Metafilter.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:34 AM on July 18, 2009

I was arguing about Star Trek on Usenet since the tender age of 8 (anyone else remember alt.ensignwesley.die.die.die ?), and was a regular on the message board of my local punk rock scene in highschool, but pretty much Metafilter was the first community I found where people could be insightful and interesting without going on and on about the fags/jews/illuminati/people who didn't like Captain Janeway/etc were to blame for all problems in the world.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:46 AM on July 18, 2009

For me, ISCA BBS, a couple of MUDs, and random topic forums.
posted by Miko at 9:53 AM on July 18, 2009

No love for demon.local?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:13 AM on July 18, 2009

I spent middle school on LJ and high school on a message board dedicated to the band Coheed and Cambria. The second one somehow did a better job letting me know what to expect from an online community. When the band moved the message board to an external fan site, we created our own counter-site and still somehow stayed together.
posted by azarbayejani at 10:47 AM on July 18, 2009

AOL snark chat, the old NYTimes boards, and some music-related forums.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:02 PM on July 18, 2009

My sophomore year of college I was friends with a guy who'd been in the BBS scene in Richmond, VA. He didn't have a phone line for his dorm room yet, I did. I let him hook up his modem; he got me started with a few local one-line sites, told me how to find more.


He got his own phone line, I got my own modem. Met some people on little Renegade sites being run out of teenager's bedrooms. Graduated to the larger multi-line BBSs in the Hampton Roads area. Atlantis, Cupid, Traveler then Genesys. Moderated some of the forums on Genesys, actually. We had weekly meet-ups IRL. Very active chat rooms, forums, online gaming.

Through the multi-line boards, i posted on FIDOnet, which gave me my first e-mail address, of a sort. Posted on usenet a little. Later got real e-mail through local ISPs. Never did AOL, Compuslave, etc.

So when the World Wide Web took over from local BBSs, I missed that sense of community. Between all the social media and sites like this one, I finally have it back.
posted by desuetude at 12:07 PM on July 18, 2009

<1> >1987 talk.bizarre
posted by meehawl at 12:28 PM on July 18, 2009

meehawl: "Usenet:
>1987 talk.bizarre<>

Hrm, apparently posting doesn't like literal brackets
b4 1987: net.bizarre
ftr 1987: talk.bizarre
posted by meehawl at 12:29 PM on July 18, 2009

Strange this should be requested, I was thinking about this earlier, probably cos of the NYC meet up tonight.

Before Metafilter, I was a very active part of the FallNet listserv from about I 1995 until 1999. A great group of eclectic and funny people, that discussed everything under the sun related to The Fall, and almost everything else too.

That online community shaped me, and I thought there was an echo of a similar vibe going on in the blue when I began lurking here from 1999 after a friend at a web design firm mentioned it. Became obsessive about reading Metafilter after the weird days following 911 when it seemed like everyone was trying to understand wtf was going on (and when and how would we be hit next) and was finally able to join in August of 2002, when registration was reopened.

Never got into Slashdot, Fark, or Boing BOing at all.

And here we are.
posted by Skygazer at 12:40 PM on July 18, 2009

In the 80's (like '84 or '86) I spent hours programming in BASIC something to download a real terminal program. Second program was a War-Dialer, spent incredible amount of teenager money on a 300 baud modem, had to press buttons on it to make it work. '87, University and working for the man. alt.gothic, alt.gothic.fashion, talk.bizzare, comp.lang.perl. Went to the first ever FATBOB (don't look for references, I've tried... lost in the before Google age). FIDO-NET, ARPANET, lost my backups on tape....

Found Meta by accident. Then office mate said you'll like MonkeyFilter. Long time lurker...
posted by zengargoyle at 2:06 PM on July 18, 2009

I can say I'm a pure Mefite - unsullied by other community sites.

My path was chat rooms (where I met the future/present mister) --> blogs (specifically y6y6y6) --> MetaFilter. I first visited when the Kaycee Nicole brouhaha was unravelling.

I was late to the internet. My high school didn't have computers and I couldn't afford a PC until May 1999. I'm quite jealous of you early adopters. *sob*
posted by deborah at 2:45 PM on July 18, 2009

dot-matrix printouts of my first "metafilter."
posted by grumblebee at 3:25 PM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

I still miss the forums of Hissyfit and Pamie.com.
posted by 26.2 at 4:42 PM on July 18, 2009

Penismightier, Slashdot, Fark

Though I wouldn't say any of those are good models for how to act on MetaFilter. This is a special place, where typical Rules of the Internet tend not to apply. And I love it for that.
posted by m0nm0n at 4:57 PM on July 18, 2009

I honed my lurking abilities on Everything2, too. I ended up leaving a little while after I realized (or, I realize now, decided) that I Am Not A Writer: something that I'm only now recovering from. I still check back every couple of months to see if anything fun has happened. It's the site that made me start keeping track of the authors of articles/comments and realizing that there are so many interesting personalities here.
posted by jdherg at 9:02 PM on July 18, 2009

I cut my keyboarding teeth in a threaded discussion forum called 'Note,' illicitly hosted on the Indiana University mainframe network in the very early 1980s, like circa 1980 to 1983 or so.
posted by mwhybark at 10:57 PM on July 18, 2009

...and what grumblebee said - we were participants in that forum at the same time, and his printouts are of a series of threads from Note (which, I learned last time we discussed this, was written by a 14 year old in assembly language the summer before he began high school).
posted by mwhybark at 11:00 PM on July 18, 2009

(anyone else remember alt.ensignwesley.die.die.die ?)

Hee-hee, yes. I lurked on Usenet a lot, posted a little at Straight Dope, lurked around the whole MightyBigTV/Fametracker/Hissyfit/etc circle and eventually posted a bit at Chicklit and GetCrafty. But I came across AskMe via a Google search when the Dope went pay-to-play and I couldn't be arsed renewing just to ask a silly question.
posted by harriet vane at 12:14 AM on July 19, 2009

'nother BBSer...after briefly using my modem for 1 on 1 chats with my friend via Procomm Plus (gotta love the piezo sound effects as ASCII-box-"windows" zipped around) I started calling Big Boy's BBS a lot because the sysop produced a list of ~50K local BBS's (Colorado) and painstakingly categorized them by forum topics, leech-ability, time limits, and so on, had a bunch of controversial text files to download, and would break into chat with me frequently and overuse this goofy "Nyuk Nyuk!" chat macro. He wrote a DOS parser app for his ginormous BBS list and I decided to write my own with *gasp* mouse support using good ol' INT 33H. He asked me to integrate my code with his and told me I'd be driving a Porsche by 21. I'm 29 and drive a Focus, but oh well.

Kick's USA (16 lines, MajorBBS, $0.50/hour) and Liquid Sky introduced me to the powers of the multi-line multiverse and like everyone else I eventually ended up on the internet, first via crackerjacked shell accounts at a local university that I mainly used to leech playboy.com JPGs (which then "streamed" line-by-line on my bitching 286-12 that only supported 640x480 in 16 colors) using Lynx and Zmodem at the age of 13 while watching Beavis and Butthead and/or infomercials at 3am once dad finally freed up the phone line after his own leeching sessions, and then via a fellow BBS'er who decided to start his own ISP and teach the BBS community the ins and outs of Winsock, PPP, and SLIP.

Then I was entranced by the flamewars of Usenet via DejaNews, and then eventually found Slashdot, Everything2, and finally Metafilter. Wolfdaddy mentioned Metafilter in the E2 chatterbox in 2001/2002 and despite a prolific "career" on E2, I lurked on Mefi for many years before getting an account, in part due to the new-user-signup restrictions in conjunction with a mortal fear of making an ass of myself in such a well-spoken, hifalutin snark-tacular community.
posted by aydeejones at 12:35 AM on July 19, 2009

I wasn't much of a community person. I got attracted to Plastic when it went live because I was a regular reader of suck.com. I joined on 17 Jan 2001, one of the first. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I couldn't take the drama and strange attitudes of the self-styled elites, and gave it up cold turkey during one of the outage/upgrade/is carl locked up somewhere moments, and never went back. Till today- glad to see the assholes got their way and now it's not only an echo chamber, but a very lonely echo chamber. Redemption! I was right- these guys just liked the sound of their voices and really weren't interested in discussion as much as they were in getting their own way. Whee!

I found metafilter via lifehacker's askme round up.
posted by gjc at 4:49 AM on July 19, 2009

usenet, k5
posted by russm at 5:58 AM on July 19, 2009

I was enough of a USENET nerd to be a group creation mentor on news.groups for a goodly while. So yeah, I'm on MeFi because it feels more like that than anything else I'd found since the Web took off.
posted by catlet at 7:59 AM on July 19, 2009

These are the online places I've been on my own hook, from home on my own hardware and connectivity and excluding whatever access I was just handed gratis by virtue of being a student one place or another. In order:

= local BBSs, initially on an Apple ][ at 300 bps with no error correction of any kind. Cats and dogs can read faster than a 300 bps modem can print onscreen text.

= Fidonet echomail. Wo0t, the Whole World! But message turnaround time could be several days. I liked to imagine I was sending radio messages back to earth from a ship a good ways out toward alpha centauri.

= home mail/usenet feed via dialup uucp (check the uucp maps circa 1989 or 1990, crom2.rn.com is me.)

= on usenet, many random comments and conversations in many groups but mostly comp.unix.sysV386 (immense amounts of help when I was first learning Unix and building Unix Box #1, from folks ranging from the merely able and competent to the Unixly very famous indeed--Larry Wall, Peter Honeyman, Jon Postel, many other members of the happy, very democratic usenet community Before AOL.) And rec.arts.books, whose formal group charter nobody remembers because its unofficial charter ("the group where bookish people talk about whatever they like") described it better--nay, perfectly. Most Metafilter-like of any non-Mefi place I've ever hung for any length of time.

= the pre-Mefi www. First browser, NCSA Mosaic compiled from source. Mosaic = ancestor of Netscape = ancestor of Mozilla = ancestor of Firefox. Most visited site, Project Gutenberg to download stuff.
posted by jfuller at 8:32 AM on July 19, 2009

From talk.bizarre to panix.chat to echonyc.com
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:14 AM on July 19, 2009

> From talk.bizarre to panix.chat to echonyc.com

No matter where you go, kibo is already there.
posted by jfuller at 1:58 PM on July 19, 2009

What online fora molded you?

I'm old enough to have molded entirely on my own, by now, thank you.

The first "online community" I was part of was just an account on a System 34 installed in Nashville, TN in 1979 as a replacement for an older PDP-8E automation controller in a plastic sheet extrusion operation. I'd learned to write FORTRAN IV programs a decade earlier in college, but that was just a batch environment, running card stack programs in batch on an IBM machine, and getting compiler listings and execute results in greenbar reports. I got the PDP-8E for a song, when it was taken out of service, and I took it home, where I banged out a prime number finding program on 8 bit paper tape with a hand punch/splicer. My wife hated that thing, and thought it was hazard to the kids. My mother-in-law wanted to know "What is it good for?" and was utterly unimpressed with its ability to read paper tape and do some math behind its little blinking front panel lights.

But the System 34 at work had several terminals, and a system message queue, that could be used to address text pop-ups to other users! Woo-hoo! What fun! As such, it was my first experience with other live users in a concurrent environment, as it was most of theirs, too. We messaged all the bad jokes we could type through that thing, to the detriment of its real workload, for several weeks. And then, slowly, a funny thing happened, and people started sending useful messages, rather than phoning other extensions, or paging people on the plant floor. Somebody wrote a little CL/RPG II program to periodically append the user message queue to a text file, and another CL that users could invoke to -tail that file back to a screen, and voila, I got a sense of what a "forum" was... Pretty soon, some serious, if mostly work related on-going discussions were going on in that strange little box.

A somewhat weird social dynamic evolved there, that basically amounted to "what starts in the box, stays in the box." That meant, that to avoid long explanations about the system messaging going on around people that didn't have terminal access, we didn't mention any topics being discussed via text on the computer, around them. So, unless it was just you and other people with system accounts, verbal discussions of that text environment didn't really happen much. But over time, bits and pieces of our "text discussions" did "leak" out, via print, sometimes as attachments to typed memos and documents. The IBM reps had a field day when they discovered some of that, and tried to use it as a justification for selling the company a larger, general purpose business system. And sadly, that little goldfish pond got drained, shortly afterward. That's probably one reason I'm still pretty leery of moving online relationships into the real world - I wish everyone who likes MeatUps all the best, but don't bother saving me a place.

By the early 80s, I'd moved to Boston, and was playing around a bit with modems and telecommunications. I did get online to a few local BBS systems, but it was expensive, due to the small LATA areas in New England, and the toll charges. I spent some time on the fledgling Mac-only era AOL, using a 512K Fat Mac, but that was a horrible rig for telecommunication, with no hard drive, and terrible serial port hardware. I really didn't get deeply involved in the BBS scene and FIDOnet until I moved to Atlanta in the mid-80s, with its absurdly huge LATA, low, low rates on second and third residential lines, and no toll charge for calls to hundreds of "local" BBS systems. Between the huge Atlanta phone "phreak" community, and the BBS operators, Bellsouth took a damned pounding every night from 4:00 p.m. to midnight, for years, and I did my share. In that time, I transitioned from local BBS boards, to Compuserve, where I was a satisfied dialup user, for several years.

In 1992, Charles Brewer put a 56K dedicated Internet line into one of his bedrooms at home in Atlanta, from BBN, and added 8 modems and a multiplexer a couple months later, to offset his personal costs - thus was MindSpring born. I joined MindSpring as a member sometime in 1994, after hearing about it from some one at work. It wasn't as slick or useful as Compuserve, then, by far, especially with the horror show that a Trumpet Winsock PPP stack running on Win 3.1 was. But, I was fascinated by WAIS and gopher, and burned up a lot of hours of dialup access in Usenet, too. MindSpring's private Usenet groups and news farm operations in the mid-90s couldn't be beat, and those were still the days when you could still ask a polite question in the right newsgroup(s), and sit back and watch as the world wrote you a mostly helpful small book in the next 24 hours.

I got here in late 2004 when somebody in alt.suicide posted that they'd just flamed out on something called Metafilter, and felt worse than they ever had. I was curious what kind of place people were so desperate to get out of could look like, so I looked it up, and $5 later, in November of 2004, I was another pain in the arse Metafilter account.
posted by paulsc at 3:21 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Usenet alt.pagan/ the early period of soc.religion.paganism/ alt.fan.wednesday, the AOL Pearl Jam message board in 1994 (anyone? anyone?), EFnet and Undernet IRC. Memepool because I worked at Carnegie Mellon at one point (so, CMU CS Zephyr as well, 1997ish).

These days, all my IRCing is private server, and I have less to say in public.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:01 PM on July 19, 2009

I also spent some time at FameTracker/Hissyfit. Both maintained a reasonably high standard of discourse that was unfortunately achieved only through extremely heavy-handed moderation.
posted by mellifluous at 7:45 PM on July 19, 2009

Note: EVERYONE on Usenet needed a hug - ersatzkat

LOL! Today we were talking about anxiety over Metafilter arguments/snarks, and a couple of us noted -- Naw, once you've done USENET, nothing can phase you.

My formative cyberlife began in Seattle in 1990 (I will ignore early traumatic PEACENET experiences in Hawaii): I started with BBSes -> ChatChatChat ('Susurrus3250') -> The WELL -> Bitnet -> IRC, sci.virtualworlds -> + etc. (played with AOL, Compuserve, etc.)

I returned to Hawai'i in '94 and continued with IRC ('Susurrus') -> Usenet ('Mama Sus' on alt.surfing = my major online community for years); I also dabbled in chats and experimented with blogging. It was through livejournal people that I found Metafilter in 2006.

Funny, how Metafilter fits me -- I have always felt text-philia online (I did not cheer the advent of the GUI Web) -- and I am an incurable info-maniac.

I'll bet that there are even a bunch of mefites who have crossed my path by other nyms.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:03 PM on July 19, 2009

Salon.com's TableTalk, which I think is pretty well moderated. It is very different from Metafilter and a small subscription fee keeps the spammers away.
posted by jeanmari at 4:38 AM on July 20, 2009

Present Day: Metafilter
Cretaceous: Yayhooray
Jurrasic: sci.virtual-worlds, comp.human-factors, uk.telecom,Netsurfer Digest.
Permian: CB Radio
Cambrian: Some of us built a hut in the woods. We had code words.
posted by rongorongo at 6:53 AM on July 20, 2009

posted by chunking express at 7:04 AM on July 20, 2009

I've come to Metafilter right at the end of my PhD. Over the past few years I've racked up a lot of time and posts on the PhD Comics phorums. The atmosphere there is actually very similar to here; lots of bright people with diverse interests putting 90% of their combined energies into making terrible jokes. The phorum provides the additional services of being a place to rant about (and free therapy sessions for) PhD-induced stress, though.

I'm pretty sure I've recognised a couple of users here as members of the PhDComics phorums, but can't think of a way to ask them without sounding all internet stalkery.
posted by metaBugs at 1:59 PM on July 20, 2009

I started out on a Jane Austen community (seriously), then TableTalk at Salon, then The Perfect World. I'd been aware of MeFi since 2000-1 (I remember reading the 9/11 thread in real time, along with TableTalk), but didn't start reading every day until 3 or 4 years ago and didn't join up until last spring (can't think what took me so long).

But I was most completely shaped by the Austen community - named members, proper grammar, logic, a modicum of civility ... plus a diverse community with a lot of talented people.
posted by clerestory at 6:05 PM on July 20, 2009

Usenet: alt.folklore.urban and alt.usage.english (where I still can be found).
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:32 PM on July 20, 2009

Naw, once you've done USENET, nothing can phase you

Pet hate alert!

posted by flabdablet at 10:07 PM on July 20, 2009

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