Five dollars! July 28, 2011 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Meta-metafilter: What are examples of some other online communities that have successfully kept the quality of posts/forums at a high level by requiring a nominal $5 to $10 signup fee?

Metafilter, of course.

dare I say it, somethingawful? Some of the same goons that were on the somethingawful forums in 2002 are now grown up with mortgages and minivans...

Off the top of your heads what other examples can you think of?
posted by thewalrus to Etiquette/Policy at 8:21 PM (50 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Something Awful has, if I recall correctly, extra fees if you get banned. Like you can buy your way back in, or how does it work exactly? I'm trying to remember the last time I paid for access [or ad-free-ness or something] to a website as opposed to paying for extra features like I do with MLKSHK or Flickr.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:27 PM on July 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Something Awful, you pay $10 to join, then you can pay the same again to rejoin if you are banned.
posted by smackfu at 8:34 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gardenweb.com no longer requires a fee, but did before being acquired by iVillage. It also had very active mods. The participants tend to be older, female, and very polite. Any post that hints at making fun of someone, discrimination or rudeness results in a distinct drawing aside of skirts and someone suggesting that the disrespectful writer go lie down for a while, in a cool, dark room.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:36 PM on July 28, 2011


I don't think the fee alone is responsible for the overall quality here, at least directly.

Indirectly, the fee pays for full-time mods, who do an excellent job of herding all the cats.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:42 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Straight Dope Message Board tried a $15 or so annual fee, to try to make it a viable business concern (since it was attached to a small newspaper). My feeling is that it chased a lot of the casual users away, since you had to decide to keep renewing, and they missed out on being the next big thing.
posted by smackfu at 8:42 PM on July 28, 2011


I was grownup when I joined SA in 2000. I'm even more grownup now, and don't much go there any more.

But all easy SA-knocking aside, the relative quality of discussion here is only dotted-line connected the $5 speedbump, I think. It certainly keeps the worst of the Youtube-level driveby jackassery at bay, but there's an established culture after 12 years that self-perpetuates, and there is good and lighthanded moderation, and a lot more besides.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:49 PM on July 28, 2011


I remembered, long before I knew about MetaFilter, that Fark was $5 to join, and I balked at that. Once I realized what MetaFilter was, I didn't balk at the $5.

I am not sure what that says about me, or the difference between Fark and MeFi.
posted by not_on_display at 8:53 PM on July 28, 2011


the well charges $10 per month... I've been pondering it. Any opinions here?
posted by Drama Penguin at 9:00 PM on July 28, 2011


Baking911 is my go-to free baking reference but access to the forum's people and recipes will cost you $20/yr. I tried out the free trial and would have joined if I baked more.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:03 PM on July 28, 2011


Fark has always been free to join - it's TotalFark that has a subscription fee.
posted by flex at 9:12 PM on July 28, 2011


Somethingawful has draconian moderation, an elaborate fee structure (you can pay to have someone else get a humiliating title, and they can pay to have it taken off) and excellent signal to noise ratio.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:48 PM on July 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


pinboard charges number of users * $0.001, which has had two effects (1) the growing fee has throttled the rate of new signups (2) by charging a fee at all they have essentially eliminated the problems with spam that delicious had.
posted by caek at 9:57 PM on July 28, 2011


Back in the stone age, The Motley Fool was well moderated; both the home page content and the boards were clever, and dedicated to disabusing Wall Street and the financial industry of its' long held beliefs with a do-it-yourself spirit. The tech crash of 2000-01 was not kind to TMF; if I remember correctly, circa 2002 their boards were a pay site, (since dropped) and in the years since, they have become exactly what they started out hating; paid financial advice pushers. It was around 2000 that the boards started getting politically charged; there are long-standing conservative and liberal factions. I haven't visited in years.

I just looked at the top 99 posts from the last week; 11 of them are fairly political posts from the macroeconomics board (although with the debt ceiling in the news today, that's not unreasonable), two are from the Mechanical Investing group, an esoteric tribe of quants who seem to have held out with high quality of discourse because only 20th level nerds and above can understand their stuff. One is a readable post discussing the financial transactions of an actual company (Berkshire Hathaway); i.e. the original stock in trade of the Fool.

The remaining 85 of the 99 posts are political bickering, mostly from the same names I remember reading over a decade ago. Turns out the conservatives are still very sure of their conservative beliefs. And the liberals are still very sure of their liberal beliefs.

I'm sure they'll work it out in the next decade, though.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:11 PM on July 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Roadfood forums are really active and you can only access full site content with a fee. eGullet doesn't have a fee, to my memory, but they do have a points-accumulation system that means you can't make certain kinds of contributions until you level up.
posted by Miko at 10:24 PM on July 28, 2011


I think with Something Awful 'joining' includes reading old posts, and they'll randomly block off some posts. So you sometimes have to pay actual money to read the website. It's pretty evil.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:35 PM on July 28, 2011


Last time I checked, you had to pay to read the archives (where all the stuff from back when the SA forums were relevant and actually chock full of good stuff), and I seem to remember that you had to pay for access to the ability to actually search (which sounds insane, so I may have dreamed that), as well as a whole bunch of other ways to spend money that deliberately set users up in adversarial roles to each other as a part of the culture.

So yeah, like I said somewhere around here recently, SA has become a cynical, user-hostile money-making machine, but there was a huge enough userbase there by the time that was put into place, and it was done in a clever enough way, that it has become pretty much self-sustaining.

The polar opposite in many ways of good community on the web, or good stewardship thereof, in my opinion, but it works within the parameters it has set for itself, people derive enjoyment from it, and it makes what I can only assume is a shitload of money for Lowtax&Co., so who am I to judge?

[/derail]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:41 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]



The polar opposite in many ways of good community on the web, or good stewardship thereof, in my opinion, but it works within the parameters it has set for itself, people derive enjoyment from it, and it makes what I can only assume is a shitload of money for Lowtax&Co., so who am I to judge?


I don't know if it has anything to do with money, but the Let's Play forum has spawned some great stuff. Which ends up on a separate website anyway, so I'm not sure what my point is.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:42 AM on July 29, 2011


"I think. It certainly keeps the worst of the Youtube-level driveby jackassery at bay..."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken

It shure does: (via The Mefi Project links)

"I LIKE TO DRESS UP AS SPIDER MAN AND FILL MY WEB BLASTER WITH SEMEN AND SHOOT IT AT LITTLE BOYS AND GIRLS AT THE PARK. I LIKE TO THEN PUT THE GREEN GOBLIN HELMUT ON UNSUSPECTING HOBOS AND BEAT THEM WITH MY PENIS. I LIKE TO WATCH SESAME STREET WITH MY DAD AND MASTURBATE TO TOBEY MAGUIRE IN MY BATH TUB."
posted by marienbad at 2:56 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


whut
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:58 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd agree that SA is an example of costs keeping quality up, but I have to disagree that there isn't a community - it's just that it's so big (15,000 post thread?) that communities tend to develop within the subforums.

The fee structure is elaborate, though. Normal membership is a 'base' one-time fee, then search, archives, and even having a usericon are all extra fees (each one time only, though, unless you do something stupid and get banned.)

That being said, I don't even take full advantage of the forums since they're so huge, but between the handful of forums I do read, I'm never bored - but I don't dare read them except at home, because you never know when someone's going to say, bake a penis cake and post it in the cooking forums.

I was a member of a very niche website that at one point shunted almost all material to a paid area, but the guy wanted such an outrageous annual fee (we're talking between 50-100USD) I couldn't bring myself to join - but given the people who were there, I'm not even entirely sure that was enough to ensure quality.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 5:01 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm saving up for the $40,000 access fee for http://cabal.metafilter.com, but I'm not quite there yet.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:32 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think with Something Awful 'joining' includes reading old posts, and they'll randomly block off some posts. So you sometimes have to pay actual money to read the website. It's pretty evil.

It's more that they don't really care if the general public has read access, since it's a discussion forum. Opening specific forums up is more like free weekends of HBO.
posted by smackfu at 6:03 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


i guess I'd like to hear more about the spiderman penis
posted by Greg Nog at 7:04 AM on July 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


SA also has a bunch of forums that don't show up at all if you aren't registered. So people can do the EVE stuff, or set up private game (minecraft, that lego building game, and RO mostly) servers or whatever. I thought it was worth the tenbux and as for the other stuff (avatar, archives, plat, etc.) you can actually do little contests to get those. I got my avatar for reading and doing a video presentation on the 7 habits of highly effective people. (In a tutu, because adversarial doesn't begin to describe the culture over there. Still fun though.)
posted by Peztopiary at 7:04 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't Fark $5 PER MONTH for Total Fark? As opposed to $5 per lifetime?
posted by Grither at 7:17 AM on July 29, 2011


Yes, but it feels just as long.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:29 AM on July 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Your mother comes to mind.
posted by Eideteker at 7:43 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


(you can pay to have someone else get a humiliating title, and they can pay to have it taken off)

Yeah, I would never, ever join a "community" that permitted rank chicanery like this and forced you to pay them to make it stop.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:25 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Board Game Geek seems to have a odd little system worked out (kinda like SA) where you pay for badges that associate you with certain games or such.

I'm not much of a contributor there but you can also earn board 'gold' that can do the same thing? As well as pay shares of your auction/marketplace fees there. Neat if you ask me, but a bit convoluted.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:39 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I would never, ever join a "community" that permitted rank chicanery like this and forced you to pay them to make it stop.

If it makes you feel better, they usually deserve it.
posted by smackfu at 8:45 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Table Talk on Salon.com was a yearly fee, or something like that. When I participated, I absolutely was happy to pay. It was moderated very, VERY well. I'm kind of blown away that it no longer exists, as it was the only private place on the 'net where I could send people to get personal advice on dealing with pregnancy and depression. RIP, TT.
posted by jeanmari at 10:27 AM on July 29, 2011


When I joined eGullet 5 or so years ago, it was free to join, but you had to write a personal statement about why you wanted to join and what you could contribute to the forum. Now it seems the personal statement is more of an acknowledgment of the rules and expectations. You can also donate money and become a "society donor"...which gets you something?
posted by lizjohn at 11:08 AM on July 29, 2011


At SomethingAwful, if you pay to get unbanned, can you get immediately banned again?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:38 PM on July 29, 2011


I think people are exaggerating the attenuation between the $5 and Metafilter's culture. There is a direct relationship between throttling the speed at which new people join and ability to assimilate those people.

Usenet circa 1991 had a lot of strong cultural sub-groups; probably stronger than Metafilter. But AOL destroyed it because so many people joined at once and didn't care about etiquette and norms. How many of those people would have begun posting if there had been a $5 fee? Exactly.

Note that this is why I tend to be a little touchy about certain twitterisms and the like (@whatever, etc) which some newer people on Metafilter (and particularly Ask Metafilter) try to use here. Because when a community becomes unable or unwilling to enforce social norms and etiquette it soon ceases to be a community. And quoting, commenting, and posting conventions are very important norms in a text-based community. It's not just me being a dick.

The $5 barrier to entry keeps the influx of newcomers at a manageable level. It is up to all of us to manage it.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not just me being a dick.

Although that's nice, too!

j/k, I agree with you completely. Just this week I was at a MeFi meetup where the Usenet analogy was described - I hadn't been aware of that before, as I came more from BBS-land than usenet.

It's true that the charge helps moderate the flow of new users into the site, but other factors do as well. For one thing, the text-only nature of the place is an immediate barrier for many.

If anything, I think the $5 functions not so much as an immediate filter, but as a deferrer. It seems to me that most people wouldn't happen on this site one day and, based on a few clicks around, say "sure! I'll pay $5 to comment on this!" Instead, what happens is that they defer paying until some later undefined time, and then, if so inclined, spend more time exploring and following the site using the public, free functions. That helps guarantee that, when one day, they finally decide "Dammit, this person on MeFi is SO wrong, I have to pay $5 to talk about it," they've already been around a little and have absorbed some basic ideas about the community. In this way the $5 helps to increase the number of people who sign up after giving themselves some site orientation, rather than signing up and stumbling around the place clumsily the same day they discover the site.

I'm sure there's ultimately a filter effect as well, from sheer attrition, since not everyone who checks it out will have sustained interest in reading daily or weekly. and won't get to the point where they finally say "this small investment seems worth it."
posted by Miko at 1:21 PM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sure there's ultimately a filter effect as well, from sheer attrition, since not everyone who checks it out will have sustained interest in reading daily or weekly. and won't get to the point where they finally say "this small investment seems worth it."

I think you're underestimating the effect. Far from "not everyone" who reads the site eventually deciding to pay the $5, I think it's more likely that only a small fraction eventually decide to pay $5. I suspect the number of comments would increase by at least an order of magnitude were Metafilter to eliminate the $5 signup fee.
posted by Justinian at 1:37 PM on July 29, 2011


But that's not an effect of the $5 charge. Presumably, if it were free to sign up, a large portion of those people would create an account, and not return anyway.
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on July 29, 2011


In other words,yes the $5 charge helps to prevent drive-bys, but it's actually the delaying effect that probably contributes more to site cultural continuity.
posted by Miko at 1:48 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


While not a pay site, I like the Quarter to Three forums. To join you must first send an email to the owner, Tom Chick, and explain why you want to post there and sort of promise not to be too much of a dick. There are a lot of game industry insiders that post there, developers as well as journalist types, and he doesn't want them to feel uncomfortable and bolt. It works pretty well, people get banned for extreme assholishness. But the conversations can get nasty, even there.

I like it well enough.
posted by Splunge at 2:58 PM on July 29, 2011


Hm, yes. I do sometimes question our assumption that it's the money that matters. I also belong to a very active Bruce Springsteen Forum at Backstreets. Though I detest the platform it's on, it is free and useful and friendly, and there is a definite site culture and frequent discussion of it, and a process for enculturating newbs, and a high degree of cohesion, community action, and RL meetups. All in all, not so different in community feel from here, and also pretty old; it's been running since 2002 with a high degree of stability across the participants.

I'm glad that MeFi's $5 can serve multiple functions at once, making the whole thing pretty efficient. It raises money, perhaps establishes a de facto 'training wheels' period, communicates value and a degree of exclusivity, and initiates a clear entry process in which mods are alerted to new arrivals and new arrivals get some basic site info and a short warming-up week. But it seems as though we often think it's a willingness or unwillingness to spend some money that makes the behavioral difference, when I suspect it's much more complicated than that.
posted by Miko at 3:47 PM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


At SomethingAwful, if you pay to get unbanned, can you get immediately banned again?

Yeah, if you buy your account back and still be a horrible fuckstick you'll just be banned again - there's no free time you get after buying an account to be as terrible as you want.

(It's also the tenth largest forum on the internet, which explains a lot about a few things imho)
posted by flatluigi at 6:17 PM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


If anything, I think the $5 functions not so much as an immediate filter, but as a deferrer.

I lurked for about 10 years before I saw a thread where I thought I could contribute something useful. If it wasn't for the sign-up fee I would have joined when I was even worse.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:00 PM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


To join [the Quarter to Three forums] you must first send an email to the owner, Tom Chick, and explain why you want to post there and sort of promise not to be too much of a dick.

You actually have to do something like this to join The Motley Fool forums now, even if you're already a CAPS player. The signup form requires you to write a sort of mini essay on your outlook on investing and why you'd like to be able to post.
posted by limeonaire at 9:48 AM on July 31, 2011


The $5 fee here is more like a deposit; if you hang around here long enough mathowie will buy you dinner.
posted by modernserf at 8:18 PM on July 31, 2011


True, so in fact, it's almost an investment. Just hang around for that 20th anniversary.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on July 31, 2011


Also, Kuro5hin. I believe a few years ago it shut down registrations and gradually introduced a $5 signup fee for new users.
posted by HLD at 9:55 PM on July 31, 2011


eGullet doesn't have a fee, to my memory, but they do have a points-accumulation system that means you can't make certain kinds of contributions until you level up.

This is the principle that StackOverflow/MathOverflow/Stackexchange work on. That's something of a different kettle of fish, though. But, oh man, is MathOverflow intimidating. (I've asked enough pathetically stupid questions on StackOverflow that it's not intimidating (damn Python and everything being by reference). But it's also not populated with people whose names I recognise.)
posted by hoyland at 6:42 AM on August 1, 2011


Oh yeah, totally different kettle of fish, but it is interesting to think broadly about 'what are the mechanisms in place to create incentives for long-term, positive site interaction'.
posted by Miko at 9:55 AM on August 1, 2011


Figure Skating Universe charges for access to event boards during competition season. Great board if you love this sport, btw.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:08 AM on August 2, 2011


NotTheTalk isn't a paid site, but it's where the Guardian posters went after their board was abruptly shut down. Because it was started by an established community, the signal to noise ratio is high, although some of the memes and shibboleths are a little confusing to newcomers.
posted by mippy at 2:35 AM on August 3, 2011


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