User Stats July 5, 2002 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Is it technically possible, without too much bandwidth "wastage" I hope, to have a list of all the MeFites loggen in at any given moment? I remember there was an "X number of people currently logged in" feature a while ago If Matt decides to bring it back, is it possible to actually have the names of those logged in?
posted by ( .)(. ) to Feature Requests at 5:14 PM (37 comments total)

i'd have to weigh in against this option, unless it's a toggle. i have no interest in other people know when/if i'm on metafilter.
posted by dobbs at 5:25 PM on July 5, 2002

I don't know how much good it would do you. I never log out. I suspect I'm not the only one.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:15 PM on July 5, 2002

Matt said a while back that only about 3,000 MeFites are regulars.
posted by riffola at 6:18 PM on July 5, 2002

I never log out. I suspect I'm not the only one.

Of course you're not, crash. Real MeFis log in once, forget about it and then die. But even death is unable to log out the truly faithful. :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:26 PM on July 5, 2002

If I begin to die, please log me off this website.

This is not the way I wish to be remembered.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:50 PM on July 5, 2002

I only re-log in when I delete my cookies. I remember belonging to a forum where you could see who else was logged onto the site and I hated it - gave me the creeps. I like the anonymity of coming and going as I please without anyone saying things like "Wow, iconomy, don't you have a life? You spent 3 hours on MetaFilter last night!"

Not that I have ever spent 3 hours here. I'm just throwing that number out for the sake of argument, you know.
posted by iconomy at 6:50 PM on July 5, 2002

Looks like everyone's overwhelmingly against. But I have a better idea: how about a list of members that are currently viewing a given thread?
posted by ( .)(. ) at 6:59 PM on July 5, 2002

What iconomy said. Only for me, change 3 hours to 8. I'm just sayin'.
posted by gummi at 7:27 PM on July 5, 2002

( .)(. ), just one question: what's the point? Why would you want to do this? What and/or who would benefit?

I never log out: what's the point? Why would I want to do this? What and/or who would benefit?

*note to Tamin, I can't count
posted by ashbury at 7:38 PM on July 5, 2002

I never log out: what's the point?

someone correct me if i'm wrong, but wouldn't it be based on who is in an active session? if you hadn't logged out but weren't at the site, then you wouldn't be listed.

p.s. ashbury never logs out1
posted by gluechunk at 7:55 PM on July 5, 2002

Bandwidth is likely not to be the limiting factor, but I don't see the utility of a feature like this. A "who's on" feature is only particulary interesting if there's some way to contact those people directly, and that's outside the scope of MetaFilter as far as I'm concerned.
posted by majick at 8:01 PM on July 5, 2002

The 'x users currently here' thing that was up briefly was taken down by Matt shortly afterwards, with the explanation that it was sucking up unnecessary CPU cycles for no particularly good reason, if I recall.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:07 PM on July 5, 2002

A "who's on" feature is only particulary interesting if there's some way to contact those people directly, and that's outside the scope of MetaFilter as far as I'm concerned.

At some point in the past, matt mentioned that there was cf code to put in an IM feature, but I can't seem to locate that thread. In any case, there were stated reasons for not introducing such a feature.
posted by gluechunk at 8:11 PM on July 5, 2002

I ))heart(( wolfdaddy almost as much as I ))heart(( the late Sir John Gielgud... I haven't bothered posting here in months, but you, sir, have made my day.
posted by JollyWanker at 8:14 PM on July 5, 2002

Maybe we could have a "hot hour", like say between 8 pm and 11 pm where the current visiting members would be listed. I know this a multicultural and multinational community so I guess the time slot wouldn't benefit everyone, I just picked it 'cuz I'm assuming most people here are from the east coast.

BTW, the "x number of users here" was really useful since it gave a bird's eye view of what was happening. Maybe it could be static? Updated every 5 mins or whatever, and whoever's logged in at an update would be shown as logged in until the next update. I'm not a technical person so I'm not very familiar with the issues involved
posted by ( .)(. ) at 8:19 PM on July 5, 2002

I like the idea of being able to see how many users are "active" at any given time, but I'm not sure how useful having a list of who is logged in would be: just because someone is logged in doesn't mean they're reading a certain thread or going to see a certain comment right away.
If you're just curious how many people are lurking around, there's always the stats page...
posted by bonheur at 8:29 PM on July 5, 2002

Why not a top 20 list of the most recent posters, with a link to their post, maybe put on the sidebar?

That would give you a better sense of who was active on the site. There is really no point in tracking lurkers who hit refresh constantly.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:21 PM on July 5, 2002

I would think, insomnyuk, that it's pretty obvious who is active at the time, IMO. Granted, there's always Miguel, Stavros, ColdChef (again, which i'm grateful for) et al. If you're active enough, it's also obvious who else is, no?
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:16 PM on July 5, 2002

Since I work in a PC store. I'm pretty much permanently logged in on several floor machines, so I can more easily evade the bossmans watchful eye, and I never bother to logout my home machine either. So whenever you're on Metafilter, I'm with you, hovering like a particularly pungent fart.
posted by jonmc at 10:28 PM on July 5, 2002

Too Ashcroftian for me, although the terrorists will probably win without this information being available.
posted by Mack Twain at 12:10 AM on July 6, 2002

What Skallas said.
The experiment a while back that Stavros mentioned was kinda for about ten minutes. I quickly ignored it. It's not like there's some sort of chat room we could rush to if we saw someone on that we wanted to talk to. In fact, it could degrade into people having rapid-fire back and forth comments in threads if they see the person they're arguing with is on, which gets annoying after a bit.
posted by Su at 2:23 AM on July 6, 2002

Listing current users would make it impossible to anonymously snoop and leave -- "Hey, there's the ghost of Wendy O. Williams.* Why isn't she saying something in the chainsaws and televisions thread?" -- and would encourage people to chat to friends rather than to address subjects.

* (x)(x)
posted by pracowity at 2:28 AM on July 6, 2002

sheesh, pracowity, now (.) (.) is going to feel underdressed. What I'd like to see is a private field on my user page where I could input my billing rate at work. A running ticker of how much money my employer has burned through while I click refresh would be enjoyable. Hey network police, I kid! I'm a kidder!
posted by machaus at 5:10 AM on July 6, 2002

While the nosey part of me would be interested in seeing who is active at any one time, it would not be very accurate. I tend to leave the site, or a thread I am following open most of the time in a window and click refresh every now and then. This would, I think, show me as "active" while I was not really. I would hate for everyone to find out that I don't have any life either.

machaus - now that would be scary!
posted by dg at 6:22 AM on July 6, 2002

Chainsaws and televisions thread... that's brilliant.
posted by dong_resin at 8:59 AM on July 6, 2002

I'd be open to this if someone could explain why it would benefit more than it would harm.

I've used a community site that does this, and I hate it. I tend to lurk on new communities, but once people see person X is online, they post things like "Hi person X, what's up?"

Communities, especially large ones, have to balance between giving everyone a sense of belonging to something larger, and protecting members, letting the vast majority lurk and read while a minority of members participate. With MetaFilter's size and current design, it works best when 80-90% of the group lurks and reads. To post everyone's name and timestamp of when they are online undermines their anonymity, but also encourages more communication in a venue that is already large enough that following it all is difficult.

I have code that can figure out how many and exactly who has hit the site in the last x minutes, and I've got code that would let you send member-to-member instant messages to those other members, but I chose not to add it to the site because the benefit of added communication didn't outweigh the concerns of respecting member's privacy. Also, a feature such as this would encourage a great deal of chat, albeit in a separate medium (IM instead of on the site's comments), which would tend to use up a good deal of resources.

If you would imagine an idealized version that let you opt out or in to being listed on the "now online" list, you'd probably find yourself spending a good deal of time whenever you visited metafilter. You'd not only pop in to read the newest links and comments, you'd also have a chat with one or many people at once. Even with the new server, this would never scale. If the site continually got new members hanging out on it for longer and longer periods of time, it would eventually tax the system. I agree it would be a nice feature if used sparingly and defaulted to opt-out, but I'm not sure the server could handle it or if the benefits would ever outweigh the costs.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:15 AM on July 6, 2002

Ok, yeah I see now that having a list of logged-in users wouldn't be such a good idea as most ppl here either never log out or flip between threads. I too have participated in online boards where the usernames of those currently "on" were listed and that gave me a quick overview of the situation.

If you use MSNIM you'll note that the status bar indicates whether the person you're chatting with is typing you a message. Maybe the same thing could be implemented on MetaFilter. For example, on the front page there could be a little number somewhere that would represent the number of input forms that weren't blank.

In any case, MetaFilter is a wondeful community as it is. BTW, are there really 3K regular members frequenting this site? I don't mean the lurkers, but actual people that login and post, 3 g's seems quite a bit, I was thinking more on the lines of 400+.
posted by ( .)(. ) at 9:54 AM on July 6, 2002

FYI, being "logged in" by cookie is not the same thing as having an active session (i.e. how the X links and Y comments posted feature works). It sounds like active sessions is what's meant here, of course.

I don't have anything against it, but it doesn't fit the MeFi style so much. Then again, there seem a lot of users who mail other users -- especially new ones -- and I'm not in that category either. If it's going to exist, it ought to exist in concert with other features that really make it worthwhile, such as required e-mail addresses, a chat room, and/or UBB-style personal messaging. Now, there could be some benefit here -- the chat features could soak up some of the less useful farkiness, for instance -- but it would also create a deeper gap between those who participate in the chatting and those who don't. I'm on UBB sites with the chat feature, and since I don't participate, I'm not as much a part of the community. I like the place, I just don't intend to let it soak up that much more of my time.

When I was on a BBS years ago, the community was smaller and having discussion threads and mail and chat all worked together nicely (even if none of it was mousable!). In a community of this size I don't see it working quite as beneficially, unless you're ready to accept the changes in character it would bring.
posted by dhartung at 10:17 AM on July 6, 2002

If you want IM, download Trillian or whatever, and fill out the appropriate field in your profile. The program you download will do it better than MeFi ever will, and you get lots of other features that Matt won't have to get requests for. There's also the IRC chan*(back up yet?). Many of the new IM clients are able to interface IRC directly now.
I personally don't understand it when sites have those "X users logged in" lists, and sometimes even a little area in the sidebar(always annoyingly narrow) to be used for chat. I just don't see a web site as being the medium for real-time communication like that.

I don't believe the chattiness would be removed from threads by this. It could just as easily, and more likely, create ever more fragmented in-jokes. Then there's also potential for the problem of people having chats about a given topic, then further responding to each other in a thread and not quoting(misquoting!), etc. I don't think I've seen this happen before in connection with e-mail, but it's also removed enough from the site that I think it's easy to make the disconnect. Side-talks happening on the site introduces ambiguity.

*I'm of the impression the channel was hosted somewhere else. I also seem to remember it never really got all that much traffic at any given time. Would it be feasible to make it "official" and actually host it on the new server, if it's got the open resources for it?
posted by Su at 12:54 PM on July 6, 2002

The channel is hosted by Chrish on his turlyming server but the alias used to point to it too. Right now you can connect if you use the IP address: the room is #mefi.

I am under the impression that it is the official chat room, but not something that was meant to take away from the site. It was just a room where people from MeFi could chat, the chats weren't always about MeFi threads too. Sometimes we'd talk about some reality TV show on PBS, that only one of us watching. :)
posted by riffola at 1:34 PM on July 6, 2002

yes, the chat is back up. it's most active at night, usually after about 10 pm mountain time.

and i believe matt is hosting it from his dsl line now, as well.

posted by sugarfish at 2:13 PM on July 6, 2002

I think a list of who's currently "on" doesn't make as much sense for a topical discussion site as it does for a chat-style site. I think such a feature would encourage even more chattiness, but there's not really a place on Mefi for chat, unless you count the IRC channel. I don't think it would be of any benefit, and would probably be detrimental. If I had a vote, it would be no.
posted by daveadams at 7:11 PM on July 6, 2002

IRC is too technical for many. Why not establish an AIM account. AIM is the most popular chat program, even if AOL makes many people cringe.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:30 PM on July 6, 2002

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:46 PM on July 6, 2002

People who want to share their AIM and ICQ presence already have it listed on their profile. Matt would probably add fields for YIM and MSNM if asked. Then all someone who wanted this feature would have to do is go through the 14028 user profiles and add to their 'Friends' lists...

I did find the current user count interesting, and would happily see that back - however 'useless' it is - but would not want any more information than that.

There are web interfaces to IRC for non-technical people, so I think that is more than adequate.

Is AIM purely a US phenomenon? I know dozens of people on YIM and MSNM, but none on AIM and have thankfully never had to install it.
posted by southisup at 10:57 PM on July 6, 2002

You guys don't have one computer logged on and one not logged on at all times for the added benefit of not resetting your time of last contact? Once I discovered that the two computers on my desk served this, and only this, purpose I've been hooked on anonymous me-fiing. I'm not logged on when you least expect it.

posted by goneill at 1:05 PM on July 8, 2002

I do something similar at times, using IE when I want to log in and Netscape when I don't want my last contact time futzed with.
posted by youhas at 1:44 PM on July 8, 2002

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