MeFi Chat February 22, 2002 12:04 PM   Subscribe

What do people think about creating some kind of Metafilter chat forum? It's been suggested by at least one other person, and might be just what Metafilter needs right now. Mefi long ago grew into a community with its own in-jokes, celebrities and infamous posters; in lieu of a chat forum in which to have casual discussions, a lot of the 'off-topic' stuff has spilled over into Mefi and MeTa, arguably decreasing the quality of many threads.
posted by adrianhon to Feature Requests at 12:04 PM (40 comments total)

I'll say it outright (dons flame-retardant suit) - I think that a lot of the recent threads (e.g. Bunnyfire threads), regardless of their merit, would have been better placed on a casual chat forum. There's also a lot of joking around in MeTa threads by frequent posters which is often funny but unfortunately incomprehensible to newbies, and has absolutely no relevance to the threads in question.

[Digression: I've been on MeFi for over two years and I only recently figured out what FPP stood for - my guesses included 'First Paragraph Post', 'Four Paragraphs Post', etc etc.]

The problem is, there isn't any place for casual off-topic chat on MeFi. Maybe that's not what MeFi is for, but this stuff is going to inevitably happen in such a strong community as this. Case in point: I used to be (and still am) a moderator of the Cloudmakers mailing list. It has over 7000 members and was created in order to discuss the puzzles and plot of the AI web game. After a while, despite our best efforts, a large chunk of the discussion went completely off-topic; we solved this by created a secondary moderated list and introduced tags for all posts, e.g. 'PUZZLE:' or 'OFFTOPIC'.

This solution obviously isn't applicable for MeFi but the example is still valid - I think MeFi needs some kind of discussion forum, to prevent the 'dilution' of MeFi and MeTa. I think it also has to be integrated into the website since anything else would not be perceived as official.
posted by adrianhon at 12:13 PM on February 22, 2002

The bottom line is that I don't want to host a chat forum of any type. They are notoriously hard on server resources while offerring almost nothing to casual readers. They only seem to benefit a small core involved group.

For now, people can use if they really want to chat for the sake of chat, but soon, I'll be limiting how often someone can post on metatalk, so hopefully these fluff threads will decrease.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:17 PM on February 22, 2002

Maybe someone, or a group of us, can host a bulletin board for MeFi off-topic stuff, not on Matt's computer. Not a chat room necessarily, but a place to post whatever you feel like to the other MeFites who would care to go there. A MeFi "fluff board" if you will. MeFluff.
posted by bingo at 12:23 PM on February 22, 2002

Isn't the MeFluff room?
posted by macadamiaranch at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2002

The problem is, there isn't any place for casual off-topic chat on MeFi


the whole damn web is MeFluff, it doesn't need to be encouraged really, does it? My writing style tends to lean towards fluff and off topic bullshit rambling here on metafilter but i Try, i really do, and sometimes it comes out ok.

Some of the chatty rambling here can be entertaining. Sometimes, but that is no reason to encourage it....instead of creating yet another cesspool of fluff just think before you hit Post. It works for me. [most of the time]
posted by th3ph17 at 12:32 PM on February 22, 2002

Isn't the MeFluff room?

No. appears to be a separate entity with many users who do not have metafilter accounts.
posted by iceberg273 at 12:32 PM on February 22, 2002

No. It's a few friends who like to talk to each other. It has nothing to do with MeFi.
posted by rodii at 12:34 PM on February 22, 2002

(I must say, I do like the "cesspool of fluff" image.)
posted by rodii at 12:37 PM on February 22, 2002

I thought there was a #mefi channel on

Or do not enough people know how to use IRC?
posted by daveadams at 12:39 PM on February 22, 2002

No. .... posted by iceberg273
No. It's a few friends.... posted by rodii at 12:34

Iceberg and Rodii are part of THE CABALâ„¢!!!

Get a rope!
posted by daveadams at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2002

IRC isn't the same thing as a chat forum and would not, IMO, fulfill the need that Mefi has; it is very time hungry on users and not persistent. Of course, I fully understand Matt's point of view on chat forms on Mefi.
posted by adrianhon at 12:48 PM on February 22, 2002

Okay I see what you are going for. Well, the engine would be appropriate for that type of site. Maybe cCranium would let someone set up a Mefi-oriented version of 1142.
posted by daveadams at 12:54 PM on February 22, 2002

Chat: no.

Adrian: Yes, the IRC chan isn't persistent. That's probably a GOOD thing. Imagine how quickly the in-jokes would proliferate in a persistent forum, and they'd be even more annoyingly "in-" because it's just one more place some people aren't going to go, like MeTa. The in-jokes and whatnot have become a problem. It's not a question of giving them a place to live, they just have to stay out of the damn threads. The shit-weasel thing is not cute, not funny, just stupid.
posted by Su at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2002

I am not going to be anybody's fluffer.

I wasn't necessarily asking for a "lounge", merely observing that MeTa has fulfilled both the "lounge" and "grievances" functions right along, and that separating the two wouldn't be a bad idea for those who want to be able to address true issues.

Limiting MeTa posts will be cumbersome when there are legitimate issues to be discussed, but will undoubtedly cut down on the chitchat. I don't know if that will be a good thing, because I suspect it will drive the chatter back on to the MeFi posts.
posted by briank at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2002

I still don't get why injokes are a bad thing. What kind of community doesn't have in jokes?
posted by daveadams at 1:25 PM on February 22, 2002

Su: It would be wonderful if the in-jokes and chat could be kept out of threads just by asking (or even by telling), and indeed that would be the perfect solution. Unfortunately, I don't think that's likely to happen, mainly because much of the chat will feel completely natural to posters due to the community aspect of this site. Creating a chat lounge might not be the solution, but it's a possibility. I am not 'for' a chat lounge in particular - what I am for is a way in which to reduce the noise on Mefi and Meta.

Daveadams: They aren't necessarily a bad thing, and they are inevitable for a community like this. But I think they have their place outside of threads where they can often take over.

Also, I agree with braink's post.
posted by adrianhon at 1:27 PM on February 22, 2002

I thought the purpose of MeTa was to pull the chat fluff off MeFi. Give it a place to go. Apparently MeTa has become too big for its britches too, and now it needs to be moderated more? It needs a third place? Where's it end? If you guys keep this up, MeFi will become the Usenet Newsgroup system of the 21st century, which is totally unnecessary.

Matt: "..soon, I'll be limiting how often someone can post on metatalk.."

Needless to say I'm disappointed to hear that. However, there are server space issues, and if a "chat forum" for MeFi is created, it shouldn't be on Matt's equiptment. He's got enough on his plate. Otherwise it defeats the purpose. If he created a third forum for people to use up resources chatting, he might as well just let people chat on the front page of MeFi. It would slow down the server equally as much.

Further, since it won't be on Matt's equiptment, it will become an "unofficial" chat forum where not all MeFi'ers will agree that it is a suitable alternative. So again it's going to defeat the purpose. Matt was unhappy awhile back when someone offered to use his brand name on a winamp skin. If anyone created a "MetaChat" and referenced it back to MeFi, I imagine he'd be more upset about that. It'd be like someone creating a fast food chain and calling it McDonaldson's.

The road you're going down here is a Catch-22.

There's mailing lists and other forum options. If MeFi doesn't offer you the chatty atmosphere you're looking for, quit trying to turn MeFi into something other than what it is. Go Somewhere Else.

Constantly asking Matt for more restrictions and limitations because some people use this place in ways that you personally find distasteful changes MeFi into something other than what it was. Change is not always a good thing. It's fine the way it is, when people stop arguing and complaining and just let it be.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:40 PM on February 22, 2002

Matt: Perhaps if you posted the address for Mefi IRC in a permanent place (sideblog/bottom of the metatalk page)...
posted by owillis at 1:47 PM on February 22, 2002

I still don't get why injokes are a bad thing.

For the most part, I hate them.

Knowing how things go, someone's going to say something about "signal" and "noise", but it can be said more explicitly.

a) "In-joke" jargon alienates newcomers.

b) Ribbing and kibbitzing is problematic when it disrupts otherwise serious/useful/meaningful threads.

c) These days (especially on MeTa) it's hard to find the meat of what's going on, because there's so much fat. This irritates the [often silent] majority. Or at least me. :)

Injokes are healthy in the way they connect friends in a community. In a community this size, however, not everyone is friends, not everyone is aware of the injokes, and thus, it becomes akin to the two guys sniggering at the back of the class.

It really frustrates me when I see posts such as ZachsMind's, indicating that he was under the impression that MetaTalk was the place for such empty noise. It's not Zach that makes me mad, but the circumstances that lead him to infer such a conclusion. MetaTalk has a purpose, and this purpose is directly at odds with downward-spiralling, vapid threads. (Except when the thread in question is a community-celebrating "Happy Birthday MeFi!" kind of thing, I think.)

In my view, the strength of MetaFilter is in its intelligent eyes and voices. Injokes can enrich these voices, but there comes a point when they seriously undercut any hope for meaningful discourse.
posted by Marquis at 1:48 PM on February 22, 2002

Part of the problem comes from the definition of "community". Of course, there's a sense of community within MeFi, but scores of usernames just post occasionally, and thousands more only read the stuff. MetaTalk is the place to discuss MetaFilter as a community weblog, not as a community. I like some of the banter here, but recently it's been treated as the family dinner table, instead of the post-it pad on the refridgerator.
posted by liam at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2002

I like some of the banter here, but recently it's been treated as the family dinner table, instead of the post-it pad on the refridgerator.

Liam's post compels me to qualify my own post: I've enjoyed MeFi banter (MeFiBa) in the past, and often participated in it, but over the past month or so, it's reached such a fever pitch (I'll check 'new comments' on 4 threads and find all of the new postings are 'empty' one-liners) that my otherwise favourable disposition has turned sour.
posted by Marquis at 2:17 PM on February 22, 2002

Agreed Marquis, but by "it" I meant MetaTalk, not just the banter.
posted by liam at 2:20 PM on February 22, 2002

too much Mefi Banter (MefiBa) leads to Mefi Cycnism (MefiBah).
posted by moz at 2:36 PM on February 22, 2002

I was chatting with someone the other day who runs an online community/forum site much like MeFi. Despite his best efforts, the level of discourse (S/N ratio, whatever you want to call it) on the site was decreasing as time went on, the direct result of "useless"[1] chit chat on all of the threads.

To remedy the situation, he created an "anything goes" category where people could just go to talk about whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. The signal to noise ratio on the rest of the site jumped significantly, and the "anything goes" forum became the most popular forum on the site.

(And what I wished I'd asked him at the time is if the new forum split the community in two (into, say, The Chatters and The Discussers) or if there's still a fair amount of cross pollination between the two.)

[1] Chit chat is not useless, otherwise people wouldn't do it (it's actually what people do most of). But chit chat doesn't keep well on discussion threads, which means its usefulness doesn't last all that long.
posted by jkottke at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2002

What jkottke says is not only true but useful. What about creating another MetaTalk category called "Miscellaneous"? I think it might absorb most of the chitchat and not be attractive as a MetaChat, as it would be clearly be labelled as marginal.

I agree because some banter and some jokes are welcome on threads - in fact, provoked by them - but there are way too many private jokes and clubby references. Su is right. Perhaps a safety-valve category could get rid of the worst offenders. A sort of "last post" station; something suitably downgraded; that would absorb our worst instincts and most shallow repartee...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:56 PM on February 22, 2002

You can try, but you'd be unlikely to coral humor into appropriate pens.

It's obvious that the tide of the metatalk cognoscenti has pulled out from frivolity, and that such banter is no longer welcome here, or welcome to the degree that each of you can stand individually, but a sort time ago it very clearly was, simply because it was contrary to all the mindless navel gazing and pony wishing that was happening back here. If jokes and chatter have metastasized into something else, well that's pretty much inevitable. Conversation is organic.
It'll only be a short while until mass attention turns to some other reason for MetaFilter's downfall, and the jokes will pour right back in.
posted by dong_resin at 3:26 PM on February 22, 2002

While anyone who wants it just needs to email me (you can figure out how, it's not hard), I really don't think the 1142 code would scale well as a MeFi chat object, I think the load would blow the crap out of it and make all my stupid omissions of logic glaringly obvious.

Here's something more important to consider: The nature of 1142 and sites like it cause a crapload of bandwidth. Things are already pretty tight here, bandwidth wise, so I doubt Matt would want to add a section where banter and massive reloading is encouraged.
posted by cCranium at 4:03 PM on February 22, 2002

why not start a mecha yahoo group?
posted by rebeccablood at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2002

Zachsmind: I'm not sure whether you understand my point. If a chat area was made available, I envisage that everything other than Mefi and Meta would go there. So, for example:

Mefi: "I found this really cool link about Mars. I think we should go to Mars."

Meta: "Are posts about Mars suitable on Mefi? I don't think so."

Chat: "Mars is really cool."

In other words, Mefi is for links and link-related discussion, Meta is for discussion of topics directly related to Mefi, and Chat is for everything else. These boundaries are clearly delinated - there would be no need for anything else. And why would this result in the same as having people chat on the front page? That makes no sense. It's like saying that since MeTa takes up x amount of resources no matter where it is, you might as well put it on the front page. But of course it makes a difference, since you are setting boundaries.

I thought the point of MeTa was for free discussion of MeFi related topics. So why are you telling me to stop asking Matt for things, that changes aren't always good and that I should go somewhere else for chat? I don't think that change is always good, but I do think that discussion of the increasing amounts of junk MeTa posts and 'fluff' on MeFi - and a possible solution, no matter how shocking - is worthy.

Dong_resin: I don't think that this is about coralling humor into pens. Humor plays a great part in many threads and they can be much improved for it, as long as it is part of the discussion. But there are many instances when there are a whole load of one or two liners that just swamp threads and take over discussions. MeFi shouldn't be and never has been wholly serious, but junk discussion and 'fluff*' is never welcome to most.

*By fluff, I mean the short and often opaque exchanges between posters (not all of whom are oldtimers) which don't add to any discussion. I also mean some of the junkier individual-specific threads we've seen on MeTa.

A discussion board might take up a lot of bandwidth and cause extra costs, but it might also eliminate much of the noise from MeFi and MeTa, as Kottke as suggested earlier (and indeed I did even earlier).

I don't see myself as one of the Mefi cognoscenti. I rarely post, I rarely comment, but I do read Mefi a lot. I just see myself as a regular user who is getting a bit tired of having to wade through all the fluff.
posted by adrianhon at 6:44 PM on February 22, 2002

I just see myself as a regular user who is getting a bit tired of having to wade through all the fluff.

...and he was a Cloudmaker Mod - so listen up!
posted by Marquis at 7:04 PM on February 22, 2002

Every now and again I'll come back to one of my comments and wonder who the hell typed it, what on this blue earth it is trying to say, and why does my name appear underneath it, mocking me like that.
It's sort of like that movie Memento, or, to a lesser extent, Clean Slate.
My previous coment in this thread, would be a fine example of this.

*slides on assless leather pants*

Oh. Well, now I see it.

Think I'll pop back a few of whatever bunnyfire's downing.
posted by dong_resin at 9:51 PM on February 22, 2002

i'm going to disagree with Matt and hope that lightening doesn't strike me dead. I, who spent several weeks going "what the hell is an FPP?..." think that jargon can be a good thing because it creates, for lack of a more nauseating buzzword, "stickiness."

I used to help teach an undergrad class on community organizing and it's amazing how many offline community building principles are also relevant to online communities. (We actually did a case study on The Well, circa 1988. Very interesting.) One of the key techniques for building strong community is that you create "social capital" - relationships based on shared experiences - that keeps people engaged, encourages participation and makes them wan t to come back for more. Sometimes you use tactics that produce "artificial" social capital. (If the shared experiences don't exist, you manufacture them.) In the online world, relationships are going to be artificial anyway, because you rarely know the other people, and the shared experiences consist entirely of "pancakes, FPPs, and assless leather chaps." Sad, but true.

Existing social capital can also attractive to outsiders and a de facto marketing tool. People will participate more because they *want* to belong.

If taken to an extreme, I agree with Matt that it would probably alienate new members, and the day I have to invest in a Metafilter-to-English dictionary is the day I quit Metafilter. In moderation, however, I think it's a sign of a healthy online community.
posted by lizs at 10:40 PM on February 22, 2002

True, lizs. I remember the day I finally learnt what a pancake was. I'd add that it's important that newcomers be made welcome when they try to access the jargon - patois would probably be a better term. Which they are here on MetaFilter, after the obligatory ritual of one or two runs around the block.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:03 PM on February 22, 2002

The Well has a command you can use to look up inside-baseball terminology you don't understand. You type in, say, "!gloss pancakes" and it explains what it means.
posted by aaron at 12:14 AM on February 23, 2002

Perhaps someone with more gumption than I could write a [voice style="salesman:enthusiastic;"] Fun and Informative MeFi FAQ [/voice]. Or perhaps there already is one, of which I'm unaware.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:30 AM on February 23, 2002

The mefi-related ikonboard/message board/group thing was a good idea for the fluff stuff.
posted by kv at 1:53 AM on February 23, 2002

Dong_resin: It'll only be a short while until mass attention turns to some other reason for MetaFilter's downfall, and the jokes will pour right back in.

And yet already it feels like an eternity... :(
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:49 AM on February 24, 2002

I guess so, Miguel, but I officially denounced everything I typed in that comment of mine you're quoting.
What a pile of precious nonsense that all was.
"the tide of the metatalk cognoscenti has pulled out from frivolity..."
I really do sicken me sometimes.
That wasn't dong, that was Zuul.
posted by dong_resin at 10:44 AM on February 24, 2002

I too * he said cowardly, following dong_resin's lead * retract all the bien pensant garbage I spouted, specially the embarrassing bit about corralling jokes into well-kept little pens with permanent air-fresheners and big "Sorry!" signs. It was wrong. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:21 PM on February 24, 2002


mathowie once pointed some mefites there as an alternative to thread derailment. perhaps that's a viable metachat option?

or else, as rcb mentioned above, what about a mailing list?

the metatalk thread that grew out of matt's quicktopic redirect discusses the possibility of starting a freeform mailing list...but no action was taken.

posted by mlang at 12:51 PM on February 25, 2002

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