How to Explain MeFi? June 30, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

How do you explain Metafilter to people who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a "community weblog"?

I have never been able to formulate a simple and concise description of this place and what all of us special snowflakes are doing here. Have you?
posted by amro to MetaFilter-Related at 11:47 AM (150 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

"It's like an orgy, but with URLs rather than genital contact."
posted by Eideteker at 11:50 AM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I always say it's a website where other people trawl the internet for good shit so you don't have to.

OR:

If the internet is a massive set of ingredients, MeFi is kind of like a microwave meal for one except without the plastic taste and the loneliness.
posted by ob at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


"It's a website where people post cool shit and then talk about it. Many of them aren't idiots."
posted by dersins at 11:58 AM on June 30, 2010 [27 favorites]


When I was at the 10th Anniversary party in Toronto, one of the bartenders asked me, "So what's this MetaFilter thing anway?"

I said, "Do you know what a weblog is?" And she replied, "You're like the fifth person to start out that way."
posted by ODiV at 11:58 AM on June 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


Metafilter is that particular point in a really great party where it's not particularly late and people haven't yet had too much to drink although the appetizers have pretty much disappeared, and everyone is having a really great time telling stories, laughing at jokes, making friends, trading business cards and helping each other out. Except you don't have to take a cab home in the morning.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:01 PM on June 30, 2010


"It's kind of like a chat room, but slower."
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:01 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"It's a really smart online community with a lot of really interesting people, and it's moderated to keep the crap out."
posted by jbickers at 12:02 PM on June 30, 2010


I pretend that you are all my personal friends so my mom thinks that I actually have friends.
posted by Think_Long at 12:02 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


"A site where you can confirm in tedious detail your sneaking suspicion that your favorite band sucks"
posted by found missing at 12:02 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do you explain Metafilter to people who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a "community weblog"?

I don't really. I say it's a message board, which of course isn't totally true, but for people that aren't familiar with the concept of a "community weblog" it's often close enough.

Am I a bad ambassador?

Please don't take away my diplomatic immunity. It's the only thing keeping the federales off my back.
posted by juv3nal at 12:03 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't, really. When I do I use some formulation of dersins approach.
posted by OmieWise at 12:03 PM on June 30, 2010


I usually go with something along the lines of "it's a community into some incredibly cool shit that loves to share links, stories, and opinions".
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:03 PM on June 30, 2010


I just tell people it's a Lady Gaga fan site.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:04 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


I tend not to tell people about the comments until they're comfortable with the whole concept in the first place. Ease them in gently, so to speak.
posted by ob at 12:06 PM on June 30, 2010


The first rule of Mefi is that we don't discuss Mefi with those not already in the know.

More seriously, I just say it's an online community and leave it at that. I'm not really interested in encouraging the masses to find us. AOL did that, and look how it turned out :)
posted by COD at 12:06 PM on June 30, 2010


"It's just this guy, you know?"
posted by ardgedee at 12:06 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I point them to this handy summary.
posted by zamboni at 12:06 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


I tell them it hopes me and sometimes I hope others.
posted by anniecat at 12:07 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tell them to imagine hipsters, but with a website.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:08 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I say it's an online community where you can discuss cool stuff and ask questions. This may be why no-one I've told this to has joined. Either that or it's the Groucho Marx thing where no-one wants to join a club where I'm a member.
posted by arcticseal at 12:09 PM on June 30, 2010


"What's that blue site you're always on?"

"Just news and stuff. Like current events or whatever"

"Oh. Is it good?"

"No."
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 12:09 PM on June 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


THIS IS MY METAFILTER. THERE ARE OTHERS LIKE IT BUT THIS ONE IS MINE!
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 12:10 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


That american forum.
posted by joost de vries at 12:13 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Even though it lacks nuance, I usually just refer to Metafilter as an online message board. Most people can figure that out, even if the phrase has connotations that may or may not apply.
posted by crunchland at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2010


I say that it's where the smart kids go to play Internet.

This works surprisingly well at keeping my friends away.
posted by heyho at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I tell people it's an insular little internet unto itself, full of self-reference and obsessed with hidden knowledge and symbols and attempting to influence the larger world.

'Oh, so it's like some kind of cabal?'

Then I have to drug them and look for ways to smuggle their body out of the building.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:16 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


You are the only people I interact with and I wouldn't presume to explain why any of you are here.
posted by Babblesort at 12:16 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tell people it's kind of like a blog, only anybody who's a member can post to it, and there's a lot of discussion, and it's moderated to keep the signal to noise ratio high. Then I mention it costs five dollars and people usually look at me funny, which is surprising since several of those folks have SA accounts.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:16 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


My cousin just asked me the other day, and because I'd prefer not to have deal with family members on here, I said sort of shruggingly-derisively, "Eh, it's just this weird website for news and stuff." In fact, almost always, when I have to describe metafilter to someone in conversation, I don't really want them to join, so I don't think I've ever tried to describe it in a way that makes it sound fun.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:16 PM on June 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


I say it's a discussion blog, where people can discuss all sorts of things, and also ask for advice.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:17 PM on June 30, 2010


It's where people share interesting things, and talk about those things. A group blog with no central focus.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:17 PM on June 30, 2010


Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Metafilter is.

*adjusts valve on enema tank*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2010


You know, that weird place online where I spend all my time?
Yeah, that one.
Yeah, it's full of cool stuff - just the other day this person - uh, no, I don't know their real name. I think they're, like, Australian or something - anyway, they said something really funny, it was hilarious, you would like it. It went like -
Oh. Yeah. Well. No, I know you're kind of in a hurry.
I know, internet weirdness. Uh huh, dweebs. Ha ha.
No, not like facebook.
It's pretty weird, yeah! I guess you might not like it after all.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Its a $5 all you can snark buffet. Once you pay the $5 you can get a lot of things... Some people just load up on the shrimp. Those with low userids or that got in before there was a cost run around and occasionally present that tidbit of information sort of like their AARP card.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:22 PM on June 30, 2010


When I use the term "online community" with people I know, a lot of them say "A what?"
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:24 PM on June 30, 2010


If you pony up $5, people from the internet will let you know when it's time to dump your girlfriend.
posted by special-k at 12:25 PM on June 30, 2010 [37 favorites]


Link-sharing site for nerds who think they're cool.
posted by fleacircus at 12:26 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Related: Are we "friends" or what?
posted by ColdChef at 12:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


People find cool things on the internet, post the links, and then we talk or fight about it.
posted by rtha at 12:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


online message board.

Everyone in my life that would "get" mefi knows about it already.
posted by gaspode at 12:33 PM on June 30, 2010


When asked I usually just say "there's no MetaFilter....I don't know what you're talking about." Then I point in the other direction and shout ""Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus!", and when they turn their head I jump out the nearest window. So far so good. None of you are talking about it, right?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:34 PM on June 30, 2010


"Internet Community." I have yet to receive a follow-up question. Usually, people's eyes just glaze over.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:39 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Überblog, full of smart snarky people."
posted by tomboko at 12:41 PM on June 30, 2010


"A public forum where I argue with the voices in my head."
posted by quin at 12:42 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or: Fark for the kids who were in gifted class, but kinda lazy.

Or: This place on the internet where people write complete, grammatically correct sentences. No, really.
posted by fleacircus at 12:42 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


I say it's a news aggregator, and that usually ends the discussion. I tried making it sound cool a few times, but my skills in that area are fairly poor.

Though she has no interest in Metafilter herself, my girlfriend makes fun of me for being on here so frequently. Please keep this in mind when we turn up at the meet up tomorrow.
posted by Pecinpah at 12:44 PM on June 30, 2010


I just say "online forum with smart people" and leave it at that.

(The last thing I want is people asking follow-up questions or possibly finding out my username and discovering all the personal shit I wrote in AskMeFi HR in an attempt to cheer up a sad AnonMe poster.)
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:45 PM on June 30, 2010


I'm not very well-spoken in rl (as opposed to online where I have time to formulate and edit my thoughts to occasionally make it appear as if I can speak in full sentences), so I just mumble something like, "It's a site. Where people post things. And then. Other people read the things. And they can comment. On the things".

I know...way to sell it, amirite?? People are usually so intrigued that they drop whatever they're doing and rush to the nearest computer to see for themselves.

Don't be jealous of my mad communication skillz, haters.
posted by iconomy at 12:45 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm glad you asked this question though! I was wondering recently what other people say.
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:46 PM on June 30, 2010


when I have to describe metafilter to someone in conversation, I don't really want them to join,

Yeah, meat-based friends on here would be weird. I luv me some abstractions.
posted by Think_Long at 12:47 PM on June 30, 2010


Who cares? It's a blog. Do people really need more detail? if they do, tell them the URL.

It's like describing cheese. Are you really going to spend 10 minutes talking about it versus simply sticking a piece in your friend's mouth and saying "there. that's what it is."*

* I realize some people may be lactose-intolerant or have a casein allergy just as some people and the methphor here is republicans I guess or something.
posted by GuyZero at 12:50 PM on June 30, 2010


A discussion where everyone thinks they're right and everyone else thinks they're wrong.
posted by rocket88 at 12:54 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


But GuyZero, what *kind* of cheese? Cow's milk? Goat? Sheep? Mouse? Aged? Fresh? Is the milk unpasteurized?

These things are important!
posted by rtha at 12:56 PM on June 30, 2010


I'm pretty sure he's talking about American cheese.
posted by iconomy at 12:57 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ease them in gently, so to speak.

I read that as "Ease into them gently" and wondered why you're using Metafilter as pillow talk.

I just tell people it's a forum.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2010


"It is a cabal, with a soupçon of Freemasonry about it. Posts are received as recitations of numbers on the 60M band. No, you cannot have my one-time pad. Go on, fuck off," is what I say.
posted by everichon at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure he's talking about American cheese.

No, I'm talking the kind of cheese that constitutes the typical metafilter in-joke.

Oh wait - you were right in the first place.
posted by GuyZero at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2010


I'm glad you asked this question. I generally say something involving "community weblog," but I've become more and more aware that a surprising number of people are pretty hazy on "weblog" or "blog." They know it's something on the internet, but not much more.

Sort of like how, for a while, my mother was calling her emails to me "tweets." She is not on Twitter.
posted by brundlefly at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


But GuyZero, what *kind* of cheese? Cow's milk? Goat? Sheep? Mouse? Aged? Fresh? Is the milk unpasteurized?

Exactly. It's exactly that kind of cheese.
posted by GuyZero at 1:00 PM on June 30, 2010


I just tell people it's mostly a less popular version of Yahoo Answers that you have to pay to use, with links to random YouTube videos and news articles thrown in.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:00 PM on June 30, 2010


I was discussing the recent Toronto meetup with my husband, and I first had to describe Metafilter to him (a website where people from all over the world post things, then people comment on the posts.) Then I told him how I was thinking of going to this bar at night to meet some of these people, none of whom I'd never met before, whose real names I didn't even know, or if they were even men or women, or... yeah, never mind. (I stayed home.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:03 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Less navel gazing more good posts, plz.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:05 PM on June 30, 2010


"Oh, it's this website I read." Usually, though, if I'm mentioning something I read or saw or found here to someone who's probably unfamiliar with Metafilter, it's from "the internet." Kind of like I read things "in the news," and how I never remember whether something I saw was on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, unless it was about bears. And, in the end, the person I'm talking to usually doesn't care.

But yeah, I don't talk up Metafilter to people because I'm not too eager for the entire Metroid family to join. I'd like to be able to ask for advice on disowning buying them birthday presents.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:06 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the difficult part to convey is the part about "...these people I've been spending HOURS A DAY with for THE LAST EIGHT YEARS".
posted by everichon at 1:06 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"This place where I learned that some people stand up to wipe. I know, right?"

I don't really want anyone I know IRL on here, so that's all they're getting out of me.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:10 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I just tell people that it's an illegal clone of anontalk.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 1:12 PM on June 30, 2010


Oh crap. I just googled "anontalk". I'm going to jail, aren't I?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:15 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"This weird thing that I spend way too much of my time on."
posted by Afroblanco at 1:16 PM on June 30, 2010


Uhm. Ick. Elbows, I know you were trying to be funny, but I just googled that too and am squicked beyond belief. For people who don't know, it's a site involving illegal sexual activity of the worst sort. Do yourselves a favor and ignore.
posted by Night_owl at 1:27 PM on June 30, 2010


For meetups, I just call you "internet friends". Or "friends", if the person is too old for the internet.
posted by smackfu at 1:29 PM on June 30, 2010




I took my roommate to the recent Philly meetup. He asked who we were meeting and I said "the Internet."
posted by Diskeater at 1:34 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I tried to explain it to my boyfriend once but he didn't get it. He then (not in a joking way) referred to the site as Megafilter one day and I laughed so now that's what we call it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:39 PM on June 30, 2010


When Clavicle and I showed up for the last Minneapolis meetup, the server asked if we were from the internet.

We said yes.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:40 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


When I go to meet ups in Philly I tell people that I'm meeting desuetude who I know through common friends, which is technically true even if I only found that out after we met here. When I go to meet ups in NYC I just lie outright and make something up to avoid having to explain. Honest answer.
posted by The Straightener at 1:43 PM on June 30, 2010


I only tried to explain this place one time, to my mate.

She concluded you would all be better off if I quit, and has reiterated that opinion several times since.
posted by jamjam at 1:57 PM on June 30, 2010


My close physical-world friends know about Metafilter in the sort of excruciating detail that you tend to know, whether you want to or not, about the bumpy relationships your friends go through—the noteworthy weirdnesses and the bad days and so on—and so I don't really need to explain it to them. And some of them are mefites at this point, too, so it's more like we both dated the same person (or I guess are simultaneously dating the same person in parallel universes?) This metaphor is getting out of hand.

But so the thing is that the people I know who I've most successfully communicated the nature of the site to are the people who I've had plenty of time to do so to in little increments, and to a degree beyond that they're the people who have at least some amount of context for things like internet communities. I've never felt like I had a real sure-fire way to give a compelling elevator pitch for mefi to a stranger or a non-internet-nerd acquaintance, even after nearly a decade on the site and doing it as a job.

A lot of what people are suggesting in this thread is totally functional (modulo the specific recipient of the explanation) but it's hard to know how to move it beyond a basic functional description.

I might say something like "It's a web-based community where a whole lot of people share links to neat or interesting stuff out on the web, and then discuss that; and there's another part of the site where people can ask questions and community members will do a pretty kickass job of getting them answers." Which, okay, that tells you what the site does, but beyond that how does that become interesting to someone who is asking "What's Metafilter" as conversation?

I don't think my parents really know what Metafilter is all that well; my dad probably has a better handle on it, I send him a thread occasionally, but my mom knows I work on the internet and has heard my "I herd cats" line a few times and sort of gets the cool weirdness of me flying around the country last fall sleeping on people's couches and guest beds, but it's still a pretty abstract thing, because she doesn't read internet forums or use the web as a social platform in any significant way—her sense of community is much more firmly embedded in her direct face-to-face relationships with family and friends and with her work as a teacher and her neighborhood relationships. But in any case, however accurate their vague impression of what mefi is or does may be, I don't think they really understand why Metafilter is important to me or why I've hung around or why I'm proud of the place. They just don't have the context for it and I don't know how to provide it in a soundbyte.

So, it's a puzzle. The difficult thing I think is not in painting a thumbnail sketch of what it is so much as in conveying why it matters to the people it matters to. Mefi is so much larger than a typical circle of friends that trying to appeal to the notion of "oh, it's where I hang out" seems to not sell so well—it's like you're saying you hang out at the mall. It's big enough to be a place, people don't quite get that it's not just a destination but a community.

This will probably be easier to communicate casually in ten years, when more folks have direct personal context and the idea of online communities itself has gotten more traction socially as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:58 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


It depends a lot on who's asking. Depending on how internet-savvy someone is, I might describe my activity here as posting or commenting or, far more likely, hanging out. And I might say website, or internet community or blog or forum, or just 'Forget it, [their name], it's Metafilter.'
posted by box at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2010


"You've never heard of us? We fixed soccer!"
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:02 PM on June 30, 2010


To answer your question, amro: no, I have never been able to form a simple and concise description.
posted by box at 2:03 PM on June 30, 2010


Monday librarina and I were having beers on the beach with a glibpaxman and two of his non-Mefite co-workers. When asked how we knew each other, glib responded, "From an Internet site."

His co-worker paused, reflected for a moment, and asked the following question.

"Like OK Cupid?"

Thus I submit the following:

Metafilter: Like OK Cupid?
posted by stet at 2:03 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pony request: Can we rename the site to MegaFilter?
posted by Aizkolari at 2:04 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Half the time I try to explain Metafilter to people, I give up and buy them memberships instead. I am not kidding. That is a statistically accurate statement.
posted by ardgedee at 2:05 PM on June 30, 2010


Well, I do sometimes send random members MeMails with subject "Somebody's been checking you out!".

Modulo the fact that I don't really do that.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:06 PM on June 30, 2010


Actually, I really fudge more than I lie, like if ocherdraco is going to be at a NYC meet up I might say something like, "I'm going to hang out with this friend of mine who works in publishing" and people will be like, oh, that makes sense because you are a freelance writer or like if I'm meeting greta simone I'll be like, "I'm meeting up with a social worker friend of mine" and people are like, oh, that makes sense because you are a social worker and generally that heads off any probing line of questioning. A couple weeks ago I took someone to a non-Mefi house party desuetude had and tried to explain to her how I actually met desuetude and she was like, "Wait. So there's a place for links, and a place people ask questions and then a place people fight all the time and you spend hours a day on this, why?" It took a full half hour of qualification to make it barely make sense to her and she still thought it was really strange. I just avoid it altogether as a general rule, it's so tiresome going through the whole spiel each time.
posted by The Straightener at 2:08 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I go to meet ups in Philly I tell people that I'm meeting desuetude who I know through common friends, which is technically true even if I only found that out after we met here.

That's such a Philadelphia thing ain't it? When you find out that this person knows everyone you know, goes to see the same bands, drinks in the same places, and you've only just now crossed paths...

Anyway, I generally make stuff up when I have to relate something that I learned via MetaFilter. Except with my wife, she knows about the 'Filter and grudgingly tolerates it.
posted by Mister_A at 2:11 PM on June 30, 2010


you're all just a bunch of words in a blue/green/grey box to me.

*hug*

when I go to meetups, I just tell people I'm going to meet my imaginary friends. It says something (I guess) for the social circle I run with in meatspace that this doesn't even cause them to blink
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:17 PM on June 30, 2010


"Oh, it's this website..."

Normally, that's where people stop listening.
posted by reductiondesign at 2:17 PM on June 30, 2010


MetaFilter: a place people fight all the time.
posted by reductiondesign at 2:20 PM on June 30, 2010


"Think of a plate of beans. Keep thinking..."
posted by mazola at 2:20 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pony request: Can we rename the site to MegaFilter?

It was pretty hilarious when my boyfriend coined that term because he had forgotten the name of the site and said "What was the name of that site? Megafilter?"
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:21 PM on June 30, 2010


Metafilter: Like OK Cupid?

I'm only here for the quizzes.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:22 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wife, who has a membership here but rarely participates (and never outside the green), refers to metafilter as "that place where everyone is crazy." When I relate an anecdote offline, she'll immediately ask if I learned about it via metafilter, and proceeds to show a certain skepticism if I agree that I very well might have. Otherwise, I don't mention it at all, no one in my physical life would enjoy it.

I can't tell which of us has a better understanding of the site.
posted by maxwelton at 2:27 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am maxwelton's sock puppet. Well, at least I could have written the above comment.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:29 PM on June 30, 2010


Any time I so much as say "MetaFilter" my wife gets that "who farted?" look on her face, so I generally refrain from expounding any further.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:33 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


My wife makes a noise in the back of her throat when I mention MetaFilter...
posted by Mister_A at 2:37 PM on June 30, 2010


MetaFilter: So there's a place for links, and a place people ask questions and then a place people fight all the time and you spend hours a day on this, why?

Also: 'moonMan shares an opinion of MetaFilter about the same as maxwelton's wife. He told me today I should channel the energy I spend here and write a book. But! But! The book isn't going to ARGUE with me! How will I know what to write when I don't need to clarify myself after the first paragraph?!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:41 PM on June 30, 2010


Sounds to me like there should be a mirror site for MetaFilter spouses discussing how crazy and stupid it is that their partners spend so much time on MetaFilter. A support group. They should call it MeatLifter, if only because it would be awesome.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Most of my friends live and breathe the web. They tend to be members of several sites and really grok online communities. What I tell them is that Metafilter is the only online community that has actually made me change my mind on a number of subjects.

Ask is a good way to introduce non web savvy people to the site. Specially the super cool ones like the person who found someone else's grandparents' house in Austria, or the recent Russian friends thread.

I had to explain metafilter once, to my wife. I showed her some select posts in the blue/green/grey. Shoe does not care for the blue or grey, but the green is now one of her first stops when she has to find a solution to a problem.

Regarding meetups, the two I have attended were at the insistence of my wife. She seems to think I need to make more friends, specially non-engineer friends. It is really uncomfortable for me to meet up with new people and have normal social interactions. The beer and other consumables help, but it is a constant conscious effort and I end up exhausted. I'd like to be friends in real life with some people I've met here, but I am not there yet. I still like to keep meatspace and webspace separate.
posted by dirty lies at 2:54 PM on June 30, 2010


Nearly 100 comments, and "Nerd Thunderdome" hasn't come up yet?
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:59 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's 2010. If someone doesn't already know about Metafilter, then chances are good they're never going to understand any kind of high-level explanation. So I stick with "It's kind of like a news website."

If they push it or show more confusion I elaborate with, "It's kind of like a news website crossed with Facebook." Which is wholly inaccurate in any meaningful sense. But I find that this phrase conveys to The Average Person* the combination of "news site" and "people engage in social behavior like making friends or picking fights."

* e.g. my dad, or anyone else who doesn't understand the difference between "AOL" and "the Internet"
posted by ErikaB at 3:09 PM on June 30, 2010


It's like "Cool Site Of the Day" except faster. And a bit more snark (which was called "attitude" back then).
posted by msalt at 3:15 PM on June 30, 2010


Depending on who I'm talking to, I've been known to occasionally describe it as the best run co-op I've ever come across.

More often, though, it's similar to y'alls descriptions above.
posted by lunit at 3:26 PM on June 30, 2010


Monday librarina and I were having beers on the beach with a glibpaxman and two of his non-Mefite co-workers. When asked how we knew each other, glib responded, "From an Internet site."

His co-worker paused, reflected for a moment, and asked the following question.

"Like OK Cupid?"


When I first moved to the area where I live now, I was invited by a local Mefite (who is now a very close friend) to a party. "From an internet site" was exactly how I described it when people there asked how I knew him. Partway through the party, he came up to me and told me that rumor was that we had met on match.com. After that I think I amended it to, "From an internet site... But not a dating one."

But the question of a description has come up in my mind again most recently because I am allowing my worlds to collide and bringing two non-Mefite (but way smarter than me and computer and internet savvy; one was actually a programmer at one time) friends to a meetup. I have already tried and failed to clearly explain Mefi to at least one of them (though I was mildly drunk at the time; not my best explaining time).

Anyway, thanks for all your answers, folks.
posted by amro at 3:31 PM on June 30, 2010


My wife makes a noise in the back of her throat when I mention MetaFilter...

I think that's a hairball.

And I think your wife may be a cat.

And I think she's not really your wife at all, but a stray cat who has some fungal growth in her fur, which makes you hallucinate.

A lot.


Even now, this is not real. You are passed out next to a cat with fur that smells oddly like musky perfume and old leaves, but in a rather pleasant way. Warm and comforting.



But that might be a dream, too.



What I'm really trying to say is, I think this is all made up.



But I still like it, and I still like you all. Even if you're the creation of a weird growth in this cat fur that is currently my pillow.

posted by filthy light thief at 3:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


filthy light thief: Once I ate a particular fungal growth and had the exact same experience that you are describing. Me and my friend were sure that the other one was imaginary.

Based on my past experience, I am not happy to inform you that that is not a cat, it is cow shit, and that is not a pillow, it is the train tracks.
posted by dirty lies at 3:51 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tell them it's a great free porn site so I can feed off their subsequent crushing disappointment.

Really, I urge my friends to check the site out and then they: a) already have heard about it and lurk on AskMe without ever reading the blue; b) don't see why they should spend $5 to engage in long arguments with a buncha pointy-headed college kids; c) nod, smile vacantly and immediately forget the conversation ever happened; or d) get it right off the bat and sign up. Okay, that last one has only happened once in nine years. But still.

"It's a community weblog with interesting members," is what I usually say. And then I snicker at the word "members".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:53 PM on June 30, 2010


I tell them it's a great free porn site...."It's a community weblog with interesting members," is what I usually say. And then I snicker at the word "members".

Accurate on all counts!
posted by dersins at 4:01 PM on June 30, 2010


me: remember that time when [embarrassing personal thing happened which I AskMe'd anonymously]?
my friend: oh yeah, that was fucked up
me: those are the people on the internets who helped me out with that
my friend: you told strangers on the internets about that?
me: you can do it anonymously
my friend: *is horribly intrigued*

So I don't tell people about metafilter anymore.
posted by elizardbits at 4:04 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a certain difficulty because MeFi, MeTa, and AskMe are somewhat, er, diverse in their tone and context, especially to outsiders. I'd say, to try to cover their content, purpose, and verve in a single sentence is tricky. Maybe:
"It's like somebody, welcome or unwelcome, knocked on the door of your consciousness and shouted "HELLO I'M FROM THE INTERNET AND I'M HERE TO HELP""
posted by hydatius at 4:11 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Y'know those websites where someone posts links to stuff, and then other people comment on them?"

"Of course."

"Metafilter is one of those."
posted by 23skidoo at 4:28 PM on June 30, 2010


I tell them "it's like internet show and tell."

And then I tell them how I know how to dispose of a body.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:33 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I handwave us to my coworkers as "my nerd squad hangout."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:39 PM on June 30, 2010


It was pretty amusing when my wife tried to explain MetaChat to her mother this weekend. It went something like: "There's this website where people post a bunch of links to random stuff and on another part of the site they can answer people's questions about anything at all, and then there's a related site where people act all relaxed and just talk about everything, kind of like a lounge for people who visit the main site..."

I don't think she understood any of it, but I didn't offer to clarify.
posted by kyleg at 4:48 PM on June 30, 2010


"Imagine having a blog that people actually read."

(long pause)

"There are upsides and downsides to this."
posted by jason's_planet at 5:15 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I come here to learn things, lots of things. I come here to say, "hey look what I found." I come here to share experiences. I come here to be enlightened, but also frustrated. MetaFilter requires me to think, it stirs emotions, it pats me on the back, and gives me a hug; at least virtually anyway. If Good Housekeeping gave their Seal of Approval to web sites, they would no doubt walk right on past us, but you can bet a lot of the media get their tips and ideas from things they saw on MetaFilter. It happens every day. Just try it. You'll see. So, can I stop now?
posted by netbros at 5:20 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's like, this BBS that has three main sections -- one section where people post the phone numbers of other cool BBS's... another section that's for questions and answers about things in the users' lives. And there's the third section where monkeys fling shit at each other while an audience laughs and comments.
posted by not_on_display at 5:55 PM on June 30, 2010


"It's like that website that you like, except not totally shitty."
posted by churl at 5:58 PM on June 30, 2010


I tell them it's just one more place where everyone thinks I'm an idiot. But at least they're usually nice about it.
posted by The World Famous at 6:12 PM on June 30, 2010


What cortex et. al. do is easier to explain-- they're a kindergarten teachers on the Internet.
posted by msalt at 6:28 PM on June 30, 2010


Well I don't want anyone I know IRL here, but if I did I would point them to BitterOldPunk's comment.
posted by dogmom at 6:48 PM on June 30, 2010


I usually go with a sort of vague "web community forum thing" description and then change the subject.

To my utterly non-interested SO, i just refer to you people as my internet-friends. Given that twice I've had not-previously-met-IRL-MeFites sleep in our spare room, I'd say he's remarkably adaptable.

To interested parties, I explain that the blue is for posting neato stuff found on the internet within certain guidelines, with room for discussion. AskMe I explain as using critical mass of the community to answer questions. MeTa I explain as the release value for the fairly high moderation level to keep the process transparent and flexible.

And of course I tell everyone I met The Straightener via an internet site with a bunch of other dweebs, just to ruin his story. (Yo, when we going out for PR again?)
posted by desuetude at 6:54 PM on June 30, 2010


Elbows, I know you were trying to be funny, but I just googled that too and am squicked beyond belief.

Oh man, I didn't think you were actually going to google it. I was just referring to how the guy who runs that site has made literally millions of spam comments on 4chan accusing them of running an "illegal clone" of his site. Also you probably shouldn't google 4chan if you don't already know.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 7:38 PM on June 30, 2010


I tried to explain MetaFilter to my ex-husband once. He didn't get it. So I divorced him.
posted by madred at 9:09 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


"It's the best of the web."
posted by Demogorgon at 9:09 PM on June 30, 2010


It's a fansite for me.
posted by jonmc at 9:28 PM on June 30, 2010


I joined a week ago (after years of lurking) and I have been wondering how to tell a certain friend of mine. He's fairly well-versed in Internet so I was thinking of just saying, 'You know MetaFilter, right?'

I was thinking of maybe buying him a membership, maybe, someday, just because he's really smart and he'd have lots of smart things to say about things. But I dunno if pouring his heart out to strangers on the internet is really his thing. Slash I'm not sure if I want Real Life People to know that it's me.
posted by Put the kettle on at 9:33 PM on June 30, 2010


I say it is an online comic book, but without pictures - no img.
posted by Cranberry at 10:51 PM on June 30, 2010


> I joined a week ago (after years of lurking)

You just missed a getting wall of ones for your userid. Whoever chickened out and didn't finish the signup process just threw it all away! Shameful.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:07 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure he's talking about American cheese.

Ça, ce n'est pas un fromage; c'est un truc qu'on mange.
posted by thesmophoron at 12:22 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Usually I'm sitting in a bar and a couple of people will rock up looking for help. I'm all "Hey, looking for a community weblog?" and they're all "Yes indeed, if it has good moderation."
I raise my eyebrow and ask "Good moderation? You've never heard of MetaFilter?"
The chumps will usually come back with a snarky "Should I have?", so I break out the big guns:
"It's the community weblog that tracked down Kaycee Nicole in less than 12 hours. They've taken apart badly-researched newspaper articles. Not the local rags mind you, I'm talking about the big New York papers now. She's good enough for you, noob. What're your links?"
"Only Youtube. A kitten playing with some string... a dog falling over... and no questions asked."
"What is it? Some kind of double post trouble?"
"Let's just say we'd like to avoid any newsfilter."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:20 AM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I work at an internet place. Everyone there knows the name MetaFilter. My boss was impressed that I went to a meetup attended by THE Matt Haughey. I still have trouble explaining what it really is, though. They were all very happy to have donuts the other day, but kinda glazed over when I tried to explain why.

My wife accepts without comment of any sort. To other friends, it's just a site that everyone can post links to. I'm certainly far and away the biggest internet junkie of my circle of IRL people.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:45 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I explained metafilter to my new girlfriend who had showed me her blog (not a double entendre), which had, I think 3 comments on the most well-read post. I said, oh, I do most of my blogging at Metafilter, and sent her a link to my recent post activity page. And she said, "Wow, 326 comments?"

I'm really popular, I said.

Somehow I think I did it wrong.
posted by empath at 6:09 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter is kind of like tumblr except you're forced to read everyone's blog. And it costs five dollars. And there are no pictures. And you can get your stuff deleted at any time for sucking.

Other than that, it's exactly like tumblr.
posted by empath at 6:13 AM on July 1, 2010


No one knows I'm on here except my husband and you guys. He started to tell my family at Christmas and I'm like HONEY CAN I SPEAK TO YOU IN THE KITCHEN.
posted by desjardins at 6:37 AM on July 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


One of my sisters is an internet junkie and I have sent her links to threads and assumed she would sign on.

She didn't. She was all like "eh".

I friend went to my first meet up with me as there happened to be one in New Orleans when we were down for the biennial. A couple of months ago we were making plans for something and I said, oh I got a Metafilter thing that day and he was all like "You're still doing that"?

I know that this is the best place on the internet or in a bar, and only question the less than discerning tastes of those others that I associate with.
posted by readery at 7:12 AM on July 1, 2010


I've sent a few threads to my wife and other friends in the past. Most often, they're not sure what they're supposed to read or click. Then they're just confounded by the awful color of blue.
posted by slogger at 7:42 AM on July 1, 2010


Reading through this, it makes one wonder if indeed what we've filtered for is a common disorder of some sort.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:51 AM on July 1, 2010


I talk about this site so damn much without explanation that most of my good friends end up just ponying up the $5 just for the ease of future conversation.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:01 AM on July 1, 2010


My husband knows all about MetaFilter. He has now evolved from "Are you on that blue site again?" to "I wish I had time to join it and read everything." This took many months so maybe I don't do the short 'splaining thing so well.

Here's my usual spiel -- Hey, it is this web location that actually does act like a "net" to filter in the most interesting news, art, games, technology developments and food sites, all then commented upon by some pretty smart, informed, techno-savvy and humorous, if not always patient, folks. And you can get almost any question answered, and there's also a place where the people on the site hang around and discuss themselves. It's pretty darn addictive.
posted by bearwife at 11:54 AM on July 1, 2010


My boyfriend doesn't understand Metafilter at all. The first time I sent him a link to something, he was like "but where's the content?"

He obsessively reads fark, digg etc so I'm really not sure what it is that he doesn't grasp about it. Maybe it's the complete sentences.

He did read the thread about the Russian girls though since it got linked on fark (I think?) so he has a handle on Ask now. Still doesn't get the blue at all. But that's probably for the best, because if he finds one more website to get addicted to the delicate balance between computer time and meatspace time in our house will spectacularly implode.
posted by lwb at 2:01 PM on July 1, 2010


I'm telling desjardins's mom.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:28 PM on July 1, 2010


I usually have to explain that once you buy an account you can change it so you don't have to read everything on blue/green.
posted by NoraReed at 3:49 PM on July 1, 2010


"Metafilter is kind of like tumblr...Other than that, it's exactly like tumblr."

tumblr has comments?
posted by Eideteker at 7:55 AM on July 2, 2010


TUMBLR HAS THE IMG TAG

GROWLS
posted by desjardins at 9:14 AM on July 2, 2010


I sent one of my friends a link from MeFi and he sent me this.
posted by JV at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


JV's link rules. So which mod is that?
posted by cjorgensen at 5:20 PM on July 4, 2010


I ran the Patrick Tibbett picture through tineye.com, curious to see what else the internets have wrought:

Other things that have been photoshopped on to Patrick Tibbett's t-shirt
  • The Obama election logo
  • GOLD
  • www.democraticunderground.com
  • VEGEMITE

posted by zamboni at 12:31 PM on July 7, 2010


The first time I told my parents about Metafilter (I had to explain how I met all my friends), it felt like I was coming out of the closet.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:56 PM on July 22, 2010


Honey, have you ever tried not talking to people on the internet?
posted by Think_Long at 7:06 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


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