Is there a metaaskmeta section? July 14, 2011 8:13 AM   Subscribe

What was that damn back door?

This reminded me of time of old: metafilter was shut down for new comments, and there was no way in. But I KNEW there was a back door into registration somehow, although I never found it. I ended up waiting until it was $5, and happy to pay the price! But what was the damn back door?
posted by metaculpa to MetaFilter-Related at 8:13 AM (67 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

The men don't know, but the little girls understand.
posted by box at 8:22 AM on July 14, 2011 [23 favorites]


Those who went through are generally unable to remember. Such is the nature of traumatic suppression.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:22 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There were at least two. The one I used was the 5k contest - signing up for it got you a user ID that was also valid on MetaFilter. If I remember correctly, the contest was referenced on mathowie's home page or maybe his blog at the time.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


There were two back doors. One was using the5k.org to sign up an account, which worked for a few months in like 2001 or 2002 before I cut it off.

The only other way was to just email me and ask and I'd send a hidden URL. This worked for letting journalists writing stories about mefi sign up or people with great excuses why they had to get in. Back then, I used to have an actual user count on the front page, so people would flip out if they saw it increment upwards, so eventually I even stopped handing out accounts.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Signups closed: November 8, 2002
User 17319: December 4th, 2002
User 17360 (test account): April 1, 2004

So definitely not a lot of people using any backdoor during that time period. 40 accounts in 18 months?
posted by smackfu at 8:30 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh, I'd never seen the 5k before. That's an interesting idea.
posted by codacorolla at 8:39 AM on July 14, 2011


There were the five a day accounts too, which is how I (and lots of other folks) got in. I tried off and on between 9/11 (which is when I really started visiting the site daily) and the year or so later that it took to finally remember to try early enough in the morning.
posted by togdon at 8:43 AM on July 14, 2011


Sneaky! I think I knew that emailing you would do it, but somehow that seemed like cheating. Now, given how much I loved the5k.org, I'm shattered I didn't think of it! I'll just call that a cross-site login vulnerability.

Now I'm going to go get an account for that10k contest and try it on ffffound or something. Hell, these days I guess we'd have to be facebook friends to get in (a la turntable). Someone should write a compendium of sneaky ways of throttling new users - I think a cross-site login vulnerability is maybe the sneakiest.
posted by metaculpa at 8:45 AM on July 14, 2011


There were the five a day accounts too, which is how I (and lots of other folks) got in. I tried off and on between 9/11 (which is when I really started visiting the site daily) and the year or so later that it took to finally remember to try early enough in the morning.

I got in through the 5 new accounts a day period, just happened to (re)load at the right time I guess. Though maybe it was more than 5 -- looking at togdon's user number vs mine (610 difference, I joined ~25 days earlier) it looks like more like 25 a day, don't know if these can be accounted for by incomplete signups.
posted by advil at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2011


I'm sure I remember other examples. A MetaTalk thread where somebody comes clean about how he hacked his way in, I think. Maybe that was during the 10-per-day period though, rather than the 99.999% sealed off period.
posted by Chuckles at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2011


I think I recall that when the 5-a-day limit was first rolled out, Matt forgot to actually check for only 5 accounts. Looks like users up to 17515 joined on 2-April-2004. Mine was here.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 9:18 AM on July 14, 2011


I got in by emailing and offering to make a donation IIRC; signups had been closed for quite a while and I REALLY wanted to join.

Thanks for letting me in Matt!
posted by dolface at 9:21 AM on July 14, 2011


The wiki timeline is kind of fuzzy on the earlier closures and openings. It would be nice if people could fill in other dates.
posted by smackfu at 9:29 AM on July 14, 2011


Didn't someone (reklaw?) figure out some other extra-sneaky back door that wasn't actually intended to be there during the noon lottery period?
posted by LionIndex at 9:33 AM on July 14, 2011


The only other way was to just email me and ask and I'd send a hidden URL.

This is how I got in. Thanks, Matt!

I can't remember what I wrote to convince you--I think maybe I had bought some of your text ads for Victory Shag and you felt beholden. :)
posted by dobbs at 9:40 AM on July 14, 2011


Can someone explain box's comment?
posted by cjorgensen at 9:45 AM on July 14, 2011


The quoted lyrics are from the Doors' song "Back Door Man".
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:51 AM on July 14, 2011


> Can someone explain box's comment?

Therein lies your answer.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:52 AM on July 14, 2011


The quoted lyrics are from the Doors' song "Back Door Man".

**notifies Willie Dixon's lawyers**

Here's the super-secret back door thread I mentioned.
posted by LionIndex at 9:55 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't remember how I got signed up. I had been reading the site for a year or two and all of a sudden I was here, with no memory of what had happened, and a really solid comment about crows.

To this day I suspect that I was and still am a puppet of the all powerful secret corvid-cabal that rules the world from the shadows (of tall trees).
posted by quin at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mr. Dixon and Mr. Burnett may be able to help you, cjorgensen.

CURIOUS ARTIFICER YOU ARE DEAD TO ME
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was one of the five-a-dayers, within the first week of opening, I think, if not the first day. I'd lurked for a year or so. Upon getting that magic sign-in page, my hands were shaking so hard I could barely type, I was so excited. Explains the username---I picked the first thing that popped into my head, an old handle from a university discussion board.
posted by bonehead at 10:16 AM on July 14, 2011


Hunh. The Wiki says 20/day starting on the 26th of July, so I got in on the fourth day. It even says 20/day on that original metatalk thread. Funny how a bunch of us, myself included, remembered that as 5/day. Weird.
posted by bonehead at 10:22 AM on July 14, 2011




I want to say that we're remembering it as five a day because at times it was. Matt might remember for sure, but there were big stretches during the 5/10/20/25/whatever where it was 0 a day, and I want to say there was a brief stretch where it was an open faucet for a weekend or something.
posted by togdon at 10:28 AM on July 14, 2011


hey, first one I thought of!
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:35 AM on July 14, 2011


I think I must have been one of the five-a-dayers too. I managed to score mine the day after Christmas, so I think everyone was out shopping or something.
posted by chiababe at 10:50 AM on July 14, 2011


Ha, now that I look, Matt must have been feeling in the Christmas spirit because users 13146 through 13214 all signed up December 26, 2001. So, a few more than 5 a day that day.
posted by chiababe at 10:55 AM on July 14, 2011


Ha, now that I look, Matt must have been feeling in the Christmas spirit because users 13146 through 13214 all signed up December 26, 2001. So, a few more than 5 a day that day.

I thought I was the only one left!
posted by LionIndex at 10:58 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was curious, so I made a chart of signups per month, including only the pre $5 days.

Two oddities:

August 2002 was supposed to be 20 per day, but was actually 33 per day. I assume this was one of the loopholes mentioned above.

April 2001: 2396 signups, May 2001: 1490, June 2001: 379. Was there another limit added at this point? Or did people just stop joining?
posted by smackfu at 12:11 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I signed up in April 2001, and the general spirit of excitement that follows me led to a predictable spike in the graph.

Really, I do wonder if there was just a burst of HEY CHECK OUT THIS AWESOME SITE coverage on other blogs/sites at the time that led specifically to that uptick? It is a really conspicuous crest, but I don't remember anything specifically from early 2001 offhand that'd explain the surge or the falloff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:19 PM on July 14, 2011


When signups were closed, somebody gave me control of his barely-used sockpuppet account. That was my backdoor. I think a couple others got in that way during the time when MeTa discussions to open up to new users reached a fever pitch.
posted by .kobayashi. at 12:34 PM on July 14, 2011




I don't know about April 2001, but in August 2001 Matt had an article in Digital Web Magazine (RIP), which IIRC is how I found MetaFilter. (Rereading: huh, that's actually still pretty good advice.)

April 2001 is when I started blogging, I think because of a Salon article? It seems to me like there was a bunch of OH HEY LOOK AT THIS BLOGGING THING right around then. So maybe one of those included MeFi?
posted by epersonae at 1:04 PM on July 14, 2011


I was one of the 20 a day. I remember seeing the MeTa thread bonehead linked and excitedly checking the sign up page every day until I got in.

I just realized I'm approaching my 9th anniversary on MeFi. Holy crap, I'm getting old...
posted by joedan at 1:06 PM on July 14, 2011


Glancing through the metatalk archives, it looks like 5k was going on in April 2001 and the Brills issue came out, though Matt's thought at the time was that the spike was mostly just 5k, with like 500 new signups just in one day.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:13 PM on July 14, 2011


I found metafilter through LifeHacker.. who posted interesting AskMetafilter answers to lifehacky questions.

But I'm a relatively young Mefite. By the time I signed up, the $5 for an account thing was already in place.

It's really interesting to learn how difficult it use to be to get a membership here!

Completely off topic but inspired by .kobayashi. - can you have your username changed? Or is it forever writ in stone?
posted by royalsong at 1:46 PM on July 14, 2011


From the day you are born unto the Blue, your name is forever more etched into the eternal walls of Valhalla. Unchanging. Immortal.

Unless you are really new and have had virtually no impact on the site, in which case they might make an exception, but the odds are good that by the time you know enough to ask that question, it's already far too late.
posted by quin at 1:56 PM on July 14, 2011


The only other way was to just email me and ask and I'd send a hidden URL.

My way in, although that was a different username.
posted by Ardiril at 2:20 PM on July 14, 2011


I realized I don't want new commenting members. We already have too many comments on the site. I'd rather have new posts that are good, and will program a way to allow new users via that route.

Did us rarely-posting commenters just get disrespected by 2004 mathowie? *sniff* You can pry my birthday wishes from my cold and offended hands!
posted by Think_Long at 2:21 PM on July 14, 2011


I found metafilter through LifeHacker

I came back to MetaFilter after a long hiatus (2004, maybe?) because I kept seeing AskMe posts on Lifehacker. And I was all: wtf is this "Ask" MetaFilter?

The answer: PURE AWESOME.
posted by epersonae at 2:28 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't it?!

I think the thing that made me fork over the money was an AskMe from a mefite who was locked in their bedroom or bathroom via faulty door handle and couldn't free themselves. Watching everyone help that person made me want to be a part of you guys!
posted by royalsong at 2:37 PM on July 14, 2011


I think the thing that made me fork over the money was an AskMe from a mefite who was locked in their bedroom or bathroom via faulty door handle and couldn't free themselves.

Does someone have a link to this?
posted by codacorolla at 2:47 PM on July 14, 2011




I am almost positive that I actually paid five bucks--during the time of daily signup limits, and Matt maybe mentioned offhand that if you were being frustrated by that, you could more or less bribe him and he'd put you through. Could I be remembering this wrong?
posted by padraigin at 2:49 PM on July 14, 2011


padraigin, that's how I got in, and I signed up a few weeks before you did. (I'm pretty sure I paid $10.00 just to be safe).
posted by dolface at 2:53 PM on July 14, 2011


That's the thread. Hmm, looks like I came before that and was semi-active. It's my first memory of "this place is flipping awesome!" though.
posted by royalsong at 3:35 PM on July 14, 2011


can you have your username changed? Or is it forever writ in stone?

Pretty much writ in stone, for anyone who has any activity on the site at all. We'll change upper/lower cases and that's about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:48 PM on July 14, 2011


Anal sex. The backdoor is anal sex.
posted by Eideteker at 6:36 PM on July 14, 2011


jessamyn: "Pretty much writ in stone, for anyone who has any activity on the site at all. We'll change upper/lower cases and that's about it."

OMG you can do this? Please change my username to all lower case. It's bugged me from the minute I signed up.

You could make it my birthday present if you want. I'll also understand if you can't be arsed.
posted by bdave at 7:07 PM on July 14, 2011


OMG you can do this?

Did it. Is today really your birthday?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:06 PM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Signups closed: November 8, 2002
I'm pretty sure it was closed earlier than this, because I joined in June 2002 and they were closed then. I was e-mailed a link after handing over one SAIT.
posted by dg at 8:47 PM on July 14, 2011


dg, I signed up October 2002. In July 2002 sign-ups were open at noon for twenty very lucky people. It took me three months of trying to finally get an account. That's after lurking since the Kaycee Nicole thing.
posted by deborah at 8:56 PM on July 14, 2011


jessamyn: "Did it. Is today really your birthday?"

Yesterday was. I share the same birthday as this website. Kooky, I know.

Also, thanks very much. Oddly though, it's still capitalized in the 'Posting as: Bdave (logout)' bit and the Live Preview window. But I don't care.

Thanks again.
posted by bdave at 9:33 PM on July 14, 2011


dg, I signed up October 2002. In July 2002 sign-ups were open at noon for twenty very lucky people. It took me three months of trying to finally get an account. That's after lurking since the Kaycee Nicole thing.

It was so nice to be in the Pacific Timezone when that was going on. Matt, you need to do more things requiring the F5 key now that new comments automatically show up at the bottom of the page. Maybe people could win a pony, or a harrier jet?
posted by cmonkey at 2:14 AM on July 15, 2011


Oddly though, it's still capitalized in the

I think if you log out and back in again, that will change.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:03 AM on July 15, 2011


Registrations were a gift from Backdoor Santa (SFW, I swear).

I was early in the $5 n00bs, and I remember how painful it was to visit the site every day and not be able to join.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:28 AM on July 15, 2011


Also, thanks very much. Oddly though, it's still capitalized in the 'Posting as: Bdave (logout)' bit and the Live Preview window. But I don't care.

Yeah, speaking of MeFi history, I reported that bug 6 years ago. It's because some stuff uses a cookie that has the username you typed in when you logged in, and other stuff uses the database version of the username.
posted by smackfu at 7:43 AM on July 15, 2011


Geez pb get on that will ya. There must have been two or three people at least who have been affected by that in the six years.

Damn it my comment in that that thread is missing a "not" completely inverting the meaning of my comment. I hate it when that happens.
posted by Mitheral at 9:23 AM on July 15, 2011


Heh. The bug as such actually got fixed years ago; you can no longer cause weird capitalization effects by logging in with weird caps. This vanishingly-rare username tweak situation is as far as I know the only one that can still produce the mismatch.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:36 AM on July 15, 2011


Yeah, I wasn't sure if mathowie ever actually fixed it back then. Clearly not a big bug.
posted by smackfu at 9:54 AM on July 15, 2011


It wasn't right away; it was still in effect as of January 2007. May be one of those things that got fixed when I was new to being a mod and enjoying being able to bug Matt about everything.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:03 AM on July 15, 2011


Geez, and I even commented on that Flickr post back then. I swear I wasn't stalking you.
posted by smackfu at 10:08 AM on July 15, 2011


No, no, it's more like we're both HAM radio enthusiasts except about something somehow even geekier.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:16 AM on July 15, 2011


timeistight used to say periodically that he had snuck in while signups were closed through some kind of hack, but I don't recall him ever saying what it was.
posted by Mid at 8:13 PM on July 15, 2011


Ah - here is Ryvar explaining what the hack was.
posted by Mid at 8:34 PM on July 15, 2011


I got in via the secret URL Matt mentioned after sending him a sickeningly sweet, pleading-type email. I promised to immediately dispose of the URL, as well as print out and eat the email message itself for good measure.

Urp.

Thanks Matt!
posted by sharpener at 1:53 PM on July 16, 2011


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