Callout for awesomeness February 27, 2002 4:37 AM   Subscribe

Kudos to Kottke for initiating and hosting one of the best metablogging discussions of recent weeks. (Cf. Andrew Sullivan's blogging manifesto.) It never rains but it pours.
posted by rory to General Weblog-Related at 4:37 AM (14 comments total)

Very good, rory. Thanks. This comment, by victor, seems particularly acute: It's a new discipline that the vast majority of participants have not mastered. But the whole discussion is terrific, if a bit too faux-cynical here and there. Kudos to you too, rory, for posting something nice about Kottke.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:49 AM on February 27, 2002

It is good discussion. But I can't shake this feeling that it should've happened here. Oh well, we were too concerned with the "blog tribe" quote.
posted by D at 8:04 AM on February 27, 2002

Perhaps, but Jason has every right to engage with his own community of readers on these subjects, which overlaps to some extent but not completely with the MeFi community. Nothing to stop us adding to the discussion there or here, though.

Sullivan's article, on the other hand, feels like a window into another world, one where weblogging meant nothing until he and others got their war on. Given that a Google search for 'weblog' or 'blog' throws up plenty of old-school bloggers in the first couple of pages, it seems a bit premature to be writing them out of the picture.
posted by rory at 8:28 AM on February 27, 2002

Of course, it's not Jason hosting the discussion that bothers me, it's that we didn't have that level of discussion ourselves (and I'm part of the problem, what with my "blogger ant" comment).

As I was reading the thread on, I started to skim as it was getting too preoccupied with the whole blogging vs. journalism debate. Then I see Jason gracefully steer discussion back on track. Interesting to see how a bit of moderation can pay off in spades.
posted by D at 8:39 AM on February 27, 2002

After seeing jason's comments first take off, I came here and saw a bunch of pointless ones on the oreilly thing, and considered deleting them and posting an on-topic comment, but I didn't have the energy. Though I'd agree moderation goes a long way.

The conversation on jason's site just kept getting better, so that's a good thing.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:14 AM on February 27, 2002

There was also a MeFi thread about emergence and the web a while back. Steven Johnson's remarks, from the Salon link posted there, are interesting, especially given JKo's question (and I think that Johnson is missing a big part of the picture in these remarks):

One of the big essential points of the book is that the basic architecture of the Web is a wonderful example of a decentralized system. But in the most elegant and most interesting systems that I look at, decentralization is only one of their characteristics. They also have to have this ability to be more adaptive and capable of learning over time, and be growing more organized over time, more useful and lifelike as they get bigger. That's a great thing about cities; neighborhoods are a way for a city to organize its internal information. As it scales up, as it gets larger, it starts forming these clusters of useful categories of people and trades and so on; it's almost like a giant hard drive organizing itself. The Web, left to its own devices, would be the exact opposite of that: It's like a giant city with no neighborhoods; it needs these kind of meta-filters, these second-level kind of things, whether it is Yahoo or Google or Slashdot, to rein in that chaos and turn it to something more organized.

It sounds to me like he's saying that something like MetaFilter is an emergent element.
posted by mattpfeff at 1:28 PM on February 27, 2002

I would argue that what made Jason's discussion better wasn't moderation so much as it was involvement. First of all, Jason farmed the question with a lot of particulars and asked interesting questions, and you got the sense that he was asking because it matters to him. Second, he was an active participant in the discussion, reframing the question, arguing, clarifying, and that teands to keep things going.

On the MeTa side, the topic was framed by kind of dumping a quote. Discuss. No real elaboration or sense of why it's important. So it isn't. Then there's no guiding presence shepherding the discussion. So... it quickly fizzled into the MeTa background noise.

This is not a criticism of gen, who posted the MeTa thread. We've evolved an ethos that says, among other things, don't make your post too long or involved (save front page space), and don't be too strong a presence in a thread, especially not your own thread. gen's post was perfectly in sync with that ethos. There are reasons things have evolved this way, but when I look at the discussion at Jason's site, I wonder whether we've made the right decisions--or whether we're a different sort of community, and shouldn't expect discussions like Jason's.

Sorry, I just realized this is sort of meta-MeTa.
posted by rodii at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2002

I just realized this is sort of meta-MeTa.

That's okay. These days MeTa is sort of MeFi.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 2:03 PM on February 27, 2002

Good thoughts, Rodii.

Another thing I've noticed in comparing MetaFilter (for example) and a site like mine where discussion is more intermittent (one discussion per week or less) is that with MeFi's 30 new threads a day (and 5 or 6 on MetaTalk), the community's total posting energy is divided amongst those 35 posts. That means that some topics won't get as much attention as other topics and comments on some threads shorten up. The high level of discourse and discussion that MeFi members are capable of is diluted across too many threads.

(Another effect of this is that threads stay "vital" for only a short period of time before being pushed to the bottom of the page. When the topic requires a bit of time for discussion, it often doesn't have a chance to get interesting.)

When a site has discussions only on occasion, the participants are able to focus on that one thing and participate at a more complete level.

Another contributing factor to how the discussion unfolded is that the people who visit my site aren't part of a cohesive community the way MetaFilter's visitors are. The folks writing in that thread don't necessarily know each other so they wrote in a less familiar manner, explained themselves a bit more, and made less assumptions about how the others were thinking. They interacted how people interact when they don't really know each other.

In the comparatively tight MeFi community, there's a familiarity among the members as well as with the environment in which they are participating. People here joke around more and use a kind of MeFi shorthand (there's a shared knowledge here that is understood without being talked about) which contributes to how discussions unfold here.

And neither approach is better than the other because as rodii alluded to, there are advantages to both. On the one hand, it's disappointing to me that the people who visit my site don't get a chance to talk with each other that would valuable for them to connect with each other like people do on MeFi. On the other hand, if that unfamiliarity helps keep the discussions on topic and more civil, that's valuable as well.

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. It's just really interesting (to me, at least) to watch the differences in the interaction of various online communities & groups and speculate as to what could be causing them.
posted by jkottke at 3:35 PM on February 27, 2002

I think it may also have helped that, it being your own site, your readers took your ideas and questions at face value. Skepticism is good of course, but on MeFi it sometimes seems that posts that attempt too much depth are punished for it -- people take issue with the points raised, rather than building on them. On a personal site, this isn't an issue -- if a reader isn't interested in what the writer has to say, they (hopefully) won't be there in the first place; and it's clear that the writer's ideas are the starting point of anything, anyway. And the ideas you developed in the original post raised some issues to chew on, and helped to focus the discussion.
posted by mattpfeff at 7:28 PM on February 27, 2002

Also, Jason, when you step in to redirect the thread, you have the moral authority to do so, again because it's your site. Over here, the person who starts a thread has relatively little moral authority. Nobody senses that they "own" their threads and hardly anyone tries to guide discussions they started. Matt is the only one with real moral authority here, and he tends to step in only when people are egregiously misbehaving, not when they're merely digressing. Community norms again.
posted by kindall at 9:46 PM on February 27, 2002

[cheerleader post]

Very interesting perspective on how these things work, folks, above and beyond the value of the discussion on Jason's site. This stuff fascinates me. Thanks.

[/cheerleader post]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:32 AM on February 28, 2002

Seconded, stav. While I admit to a twinge of feeling 'shouldn't MeTa be like this?' on seeing Jason's thread, there are reasons, many of them good, why it isn't, as he and others have outlined here. I hope that we'll at least keep pointing to the interesting stuff happening elsewhere though, so that it inspires us to go the extra mile on MeTa.

But there have been several metablogging MeTa posts lately in response to Dvorak columns, NYT articles etc. Maybe we're just feeling metablogged out at the moment. (But then the dooce threads suggest that we aren't...)
posted by rory at 3:47 AM on February 28, 2002

Cloning Matt has to become our number one priority* Though I really appreciate he's not a moderator and chips in like the rest of us, jeezing and fussing, provoking and going awry - somehow he's able to sincerely play the Brother part without doing the loathsome Big bit. That's what makes MetaFilter wilder and, in its own, non-spectacular way, wiser. In a wise guy sort of way, at least. And - lest anyone forget it - blessedly daily, unlike Kottke's discussions, more like Davos summits than weblogging. ;)

*Either that or set him up with Modafinil for life. A drip would be good. Quite frankly, I don't think he's been getting the hint from all those "sleep is bad" threads we've lately been throwing his way. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:44 AM on February 28, 2002

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