Hazlitt's love letter to MetaFilter October 31, 2014 11:49 AM   Subscribe

The Internet’s First Family by Stephen Thomas at Hazlitt takes a "historical" (recent history that is!) view of MetaFilter. Don't go all gooey when you read it. via Phire's tweet
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to MetaFilter-Related at 11:49 AM (171 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite

MetaFilter began in 1999 as a sort of humane proto-Reddit

BURN THE WITCH

OK, I'll go read the article now.
posted by Mayor West at 11:54 AM on October 31, 2014 [11 favorites]


To clarify! It's an absolutely lovely essay and I really enjoyed the structure and flow of the prose. I called it rosy-coloured because that's what I think all love letters necessarily are, not to take away from the quality of the writing or accuracy of the sentiment. And hey, no one wants to read about the flameouts and the trainwreck MeTas and the declawed Palestinian cats in a major Canadian literary magazine.

(Well, actually, that sounds kinda fun...)

By the by, Stephen Thomas is Metafilter's own Torotonian, skwt!
posted by Phire at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2014 [13 favorites]


I went all gooey when I read it.
posted by hippybear at 12:04 PM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]


I totally giggled when I got to "this guy."
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:06 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter: thick-skulled autodidacts
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


According to Quantcast, “The typical visitor shops at Cold Water Creek, visits sierratradingpost.com, and banks at U.S. Bank.”

I had two sierratradingpost.com tabs open as I was reading this. I think I might be the Spiders Georg of this situation.
posted by almostmanda at 12:10 PM on October 31, 2014 [43 favorites]


This is the Ask MeFi thread mentioned in the article. I had heard of MetaFilter before, back in the days of Plastic and Kuro5hin, but I was surprised to learn when that thread went viral that (A) MeFi was still around, and (B) that it was, for lack of a better term, a Force for Good in the world. And frankly, I don't think you could ask for a better calling card than that thread.
posted by Cash4Lead at 12:10 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man have been around here a while. I remember most of the threads mentioned in that story.
posted by COD at 12:13 PM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


A good write-up from an insider, thanks for posting.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:14 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


An excellent piece, but what's this about "it’s not as blue as it used to be"? It isn't? Am I going blind?
posted by languagehat at 12:14 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cash4Lead: "This is the Ask MeFi thread mentioned in the article. I had heard of MetaFilter before, back in the days of Plastic and Kuro5hin, but I was surprised to learn that (A) it was still around, and (B) that it was, for lack of a better term, a force for good in the world. And frankly, I don't think you could ask for a better calling card than that thread."

There are many ask metafilter threads in the article, each of which is instantly recognizable as a pivot in our collective history.
posted by boo_radley at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


I totally giggled when I got to "this guy."

WHO'S GOT TWO THUMBS AND IS THIS GUY
posted by Greg Nog at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2014 [72 favorites]


... what's this about "it’s not as blue as it used to be"? It isn't? Am I going blind?

Just never log out and you'll be fine.
posted by ODiV at 12:22 PM on October 31, 2014 [10 favorites]


An excellent piece, but what's this about "it’s not as blue as it used to be"? It isn't? Am I going blind?
The default theme for logged-out users and visitors has a white background! A WHITE BACKGROUND! ANIL DASH STRIKES AGAIN!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:22 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh my god this is great, I was tearing up just from reading the URL - "the internet's first family" is so perfect and touching. Now I'm about to cry at work. I love you guys!
posted by dialetheia at 12:22 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]


There are many ask metafilter threads in the article, each of which is instantly recognizable as a pivot in our collective history.

Yes, of course. I should have been more specific--the thread mentioned in the opening of the article.
posted by Cash4Lead at 12:24 PM on October 31, 2014


Yeah, that was lovely! I remember a bunch of those too! I was even involved, tangentially, in some of them, and someone I hope I can consider a good friend, EvaDestruction, who I met through Metafilter, is mentioned as giving great and heartfelt advice as she always does.

It was really exciting to see all those familiar names and memories and realize how real the events were, even if they happened virtually, and how fond I am of the people whose names I'm seeing. I don't know their actual names, but they're still very real and important.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:26 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]


And now having read the sentence in the article, it's clear from the context that languagehat's confusion was tongue in cheek, so I feel silly.
posted by ODiV at 12:31 PM on October 31, 2014


Aww. It makes me feel positively schmoopy about the site.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:43 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Family? I have one dysfunctional family, not sure I need another.
posted by jonmc at 12:44 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


We have off brand beer and some rare vinyl, jon. C'mon.
posted by boo_radley at 12:45 PM on October 31, 2014 [9 favorites]


That was great! I think he hit on an important point about the trust aspect of this site that isn't there in other sites - at the very minimum, we trust each other not to be shitheels on the site, and I think that carries over into the bigger notable stories that he relates.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:45 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter Popular feed: machine-generated, vibe-agnostic ... pure representation ... of the site’s heat
posted by filthy light thief at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2014


♥ ♥ ♥
posted by Lynsey at 12:57 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


I get asked every now and then "What is MetaFilter?" or "Why are you on MetaFilter?" This article is pretty much the perfect one to send in response.
posted by Wordshore at 12:57 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Speaking of all this, was there any long term followup on what became of Svetlana and Ksenya, the two Russian girls? Did they stay in the US or return to Russia? Are they still here?
posted by alms at 12:57 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


The sad irony is that Greg Nog has only 1.5 thumbs.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:00 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know about gooey, but I'm very thankful to have this place and all y'all in my life.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:01 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


What happened to FeistyFerret? Our resident 13 (almost 14) year old would now be 21 or 22, but he disappeared after a brief peak of activity on the site. His one project seems to be a website that he named after himself, and I just googled him, and I'm going to stop now because I feel a bit creepy about it all, though I'm still tempted to track him down and email him, asking "why did you leave MetaFilter?"

Which would be really creepy.

Happy Halloween, right?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:08 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


OK, it looks like he was recognized in a MetaTalk post as being on Larry King Live in 2007, so I feel less creepy and more behind the times.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:09 PM on October 31, 2014


"to thank for giving me up-close-and-personal insights into women’s experiences to a degree I’d never had access to, even from my closest female friends and girlfriends, which more or less singlehandedly changed the way I thought about feminism overnight. "

Yes. Yes to this.
posted by Tevin at 1:11 PM on October 31, 2014 [17 favorites]


The sad irony is that Greg Nog has only 1.5 thumbs.

Remember when we used to call him Greg "Two Thumbs" Nog as a cruel joke? All the extra moderation around here really killed that off.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:12 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes. Yes to this.

and any number of perspectives that I personally have not found so well elucidated anywhere else. There is a lot to be said for friends and network and having discussions that go well beyond the superficial with them ... but strangers just know more. Because there are so many more of them. And Metafilter is nothing if not a community of strangers.
posted by philip-random at 1:15 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


skwt did a very good job with that piece.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2014 [20 favorites]


...community of strangers.

Guilty.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:19 PM on October 31, 2014


Oh hi guys! Thanks JCiFA for posting! And thanks to phire for tweeting. It's super nice to see you guys' reaction, I'm glad you generally seem to like it. This was one of my first ever journalism type pieces of writing, and as a regular mefi reader (clearly), with the essay being ABOUT mefi, and figuring it would end up here on way or another, I was hyper conscious of the kind of ripping apart pretty much everything that gets posted here gets in one way or another. So actually, thanks for helping me up my game.

Also, even though this ended up being considerably longer than my editor originally wanted it to be*, I still had to cut a ton of stuff, including a ton of material I collected from interviewing kathrine, jessamyn, coldchef, fake, and emails with a lot of other people, but whether the material made the final cut or not I wanted to extend a huge thank you to all the mefites who helped me out with their stories and their time. I hope those who helped me out with it aren't disappointed.

* -- which may be related to the fact that the editor at Hazlitt, it turned out, has been reading mefi even longer than I have, and was super jazzed when I pitched the essay, which was lucky because I have pretty much zero track record with journalism and he had no idea who I was, but he was on board from the start.

By the way, it's buried in a footnote, but this was my original call for input on the essay, just for context.

Also, phire mentioned in her tweet that the essay is a little rosy-coloured. To that I'll just say, like: yeah, guilty as charged.
posted by skwt at 1:19 PM on October 31, 2014 [47 favorites]


I love this place, I've made some great friends here. At my first meetup I met a trio (now foursome) of tremendous and delightful mefites who happened to live ONE BLOCK FROM ME and my life has been so, so much richer for their friendship. I think this piece captures that feeling pretty nicely.

Also, one of my smartest IRL friends happens to be a mefite, which just seems fitting.
posted by troika at 1:20 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


thanks very much jessamyn. that long phone call with you was definitely one of the highlights of the whole process for me.
posted by skwt at 1:21 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm just glad to see the writer mention one of the darkest days in this site's history.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:22 PM on October 31, 2014 [10 favorites]


Last question (for now): was the link to the wrong "I know more about this than you can possibly imagine" intentional, because I thought jakeelala was the source of that sort of line.

(And a hat tip for the "about social justice" jab.)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:24 PM on October 31, 2014


the darkest days in this site's history.

You said it. Truly a wine-dark moment.
posted by ODiV at 1:27 PM on October 31, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm delighted that the Viking thread got mentioned! I still recall the day I posted it, first worried it might get deleted, then seeing a slow roiling argument build in the comments, then cackling at the screen and hissing, "YESSSSSS. THEY ARE BICKERING"
posted by Greg Nog at 1:31 PM on October 31, 2014 [23 favorites]


That was really fantastic skwt! I knew all the stories and could kind of see where each one was going to go in the bigger story, but I literally choked up twice while reading it. I didn't think a recap of stories I already knew could make me cry, but it happened.

I feel the need to point out two small data inaccuracies (even though I know it's bean plating to do so): I think the visitors/pageviews numbers are mixed up, 300k visitors can't look at 60k pages a day, it would literally have to be more than 300k, so 60k users looking at 300k pages sounds a bit more accurate. And Ask MeFi started in December 2003, not 2005, but I agree Jessamyn was the big driving force for helping set the tone of the space, it's just that she helped out before she was officially moderating in the 2003-2005 era.

I really loved the piece, thanks for doing such a thorough and great job on it skwt.

was there any long term followup on what became of Svetlana and Ksenya, the two Russian girls? Did they stay in the US or return to Russia?

After the month was up, I am pretty sure they flew back on tickets paid for by US agencies (or was it donations?). I think I heard a "they're fine in Russia still" a year after.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:36 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]


One small thing jumped out at me: 15 percent of us are Indian? I can think of several posters who have mentioned being of Indian descent, but I guess I figured they were probably in the US/UK for the most part. I feel like I'm missing out on more cool blue threads about stuff going on in India.
posted by Diablevert at 1:41 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


Love it.
posted by The Whelk at 1:43 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nice work, skwt.
posted by notyou at 1:46 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks so much for this.

I've told the Svetlana and Ksenya story more times than I can remember but I still got totally worried about them all over again reading the story.

(which I mean as a huge compliment to the article)

I also teared up a few times.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:49 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is an awesome article, rose-colored for a reason. Thanks!

Facebook will not let me post it like it normally does, and that is weird.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:56 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Speaking of all this, was there any long term followup on what became of Svetlana and Ksenya, the two Russian girls? Did they stay in the US or return to Russia? Are they still here?

Here was the Update on K and S MeTa post. They were back in Russia by June.


One small thing jumped out at me: 15 percent of us are Indian? I can think of several posters who have mentioned being of Indian descent, but I guess I figured they were probably in the US/UK for the most part.

I think that refers not to where people are "from," but where they physically sit (or stand) when they visit MetaFilter. This is probably based on traffic logs of total number of visitors, not users.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:57 PM on October 31, 2014


Wonderful work, like Matt, I know these stories, but I get choked up reading them summarized this way. METAFILTER, YOU'RE AWESOME.
posted by msali at 2:01 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great article. I don't remember hearing the part about giving up their passports, that is frightening. Mefites are the best.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:04 PM on October 31, 2014


I don't remember hearing the part about giving up their passports

I didn't remember that either, and I know that's a HUGE red flag, and how basically people keep foreigners captive for weeks/months/years somewhere by saying they'll "hold your passport" and then you can't flee.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:11 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man, I got to say, that article really nails why I hate every single one of you.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:19 PM on October 31, 2014 [30 favorites]


I got misty at “HE GOT HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

*is a sap*
posted by blurker at 2:21 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]


Neat-o. I'd never really considered the fact that "we help each other" was a defining characteristic of site. I mostly come here to be engaged and act goofy with other smart people. But then I look back, and several times people from here have reached out to me in my professional capacity and -- "Of course I can help, you're from MeFi!"

Anyway, I'm sick of that now and really I just want to use the place to act like a jackass. I'll be back here after trick or treating and 3 bourbons. I'm drinking 1776 tonight.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:43 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


Holy shmoops, that was great.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:49 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


'According to Alexa in 2014, “Relative to the general internet population,” males are under-represented and Females are over-represented.'

By God, we've earned that over-representation with blood, sweat, tears, and sharp little bits of teeth grindings scattered around our keyboards.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:50 PM on October 31, 2014 [30 favorites]


*sniff!*
posted by kimberussell at 2:59 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Next time I get bad service somewhere I'm going to remind them that I am a scion of the internet's first family.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:09 PM on October 31, 2014 [9 favorites]


onions... all the onions.

There ain't no place in the world like this place.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:09 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]


Next time I get bad service somewhere I'm going to remind them that I am a scion of the internet's first family.

Does this mean I get a Duchy or is it more like a DAR thing?
posted by The Whelk at 3:10 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it's like being a minor Kennedy.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:18 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


Who's Billy Carter?

(Me probs)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:19 PM on October 31, 2014


Cool I'll be Bart-Bart.
posted by The Whelk at 3:19 PM on October 31, 2014


Hey, this is a cool story and a good rundown of what happened with the Russian women, the details of which I wasn't familiar with at all. Thanks for posting it!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:20 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Really well done, and completely sums up my feelings about this community as well. In the thread about the young woman looking for help with her unexpected pregnancy, I posted:
Let me add this: there have been so many geographically specific offers of rides/support/friendship in this thread that it is increasingly unlikely that your area has not already been mentioned. If it has not, and if you still need any of those things, I hereby guarantee (on behalf of MetaFilter) that if you tell us where you are, WE WILL FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP. You can either post it in the thread and we can do it out in the open, or you can MeMail someone you trust (or someone who seems nice) and we can do it behind the scenes via MeMail and email (if you want your location to remain a secret). My confidence in the goodness and effectiveness of this community is such that I 100% guarantee it.
Y'all are my community, whether you know it or not, and I'm not sure what I'd do without you.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:23 PM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]


Ah, finally! A half-way decent, if (appropriately) long-winded Thing to point people at when attempting to do the "What is MetaFilter?" dance.

Thank you skwt, that was a fantastic read!
posted by carsonb at 3:26 PM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


I treasure you people.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:39 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hey Greg Nog, congrats! You're a "this guy!"
posted by JHarris at 3:51 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Oh, I see you've noticed, already, your thisness. Never mind, carry on.)
posted by JHarris at 3:59 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


That was wonderful. It really got to the heart of the place. I'm so glad to be a part of this place.
posted by meese at 4:30 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


Who's Billy Carter?

Jimmy Carter's embarassing, if somewhat endearing, redneck brother.
posted by jonmc at 4:34 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


But just because you don’t play an active role in an event, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be important to you. You learn from what other people do; you learn from the site’s culture. The highlights are the exceptional feats of heroism, but anyone who reads the site with any regularity soon learns that the spirit that animates these Great Acts in fact runs all throughout the site, in all the little conversations, all the little exchanges, in the friction and the recovery from the friction, and in how people treat each other and learn to treat each other, even when interacting with people they’ll probably never meet.

It took me a little while to figure out what this reminded me of.
"I try to be my own hero. That may sound flippant, but 15 years ago when I was really trying to grasp a direction for my life, a friend wise beyond his years reminded me that no one is perfect, that heroes fall and white knights on horseback are rare. Instead, he said, I should identify those qualities I found heroic and good and valuable in anyone I admired, and cultivate them in myself. "You won't always succeed," he said, "but you'll be better for trying. Losers sit and wish. Heroes try. Be your own hero."
posted by zamboni at 5:41 PM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


:) You know, I was just thinking how much I like this site, it really feels like a home to me, even though I'm not a heavy contributor, I hang out here all the time. So this was a very timely read for me.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:48 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]


Hey skwt, I think I remember meeting you at the ten-year anniversary. Congrats on your first "journalistic" publication and thanks for doing such a good job dis tilling why people love this place.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:55 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


"People trusted me enough to help me.”

What a nice thing, that we have a community that lets this happen.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:51 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


I treasure you people.

Maybe that's MetaFilter's secret. You go to reddit, or SA, or wherever... and it's all screennames. Identities don't persist.

Here... well, sometimes names change. But the identities remain. MetaFilter is people. We share too much here to see each other as abstract names on a page. There are faces, voices, victories and defeats.

There is human interaction here, is what I am saying, not just words on pages, signifying nothing.

What magic confluence of people caused this it's up to far better minds than mine to figure out. But it's a magic that we've all created, that we create every day, maybe just from that small reminder near the comment box.

Metafilter is people. Goddamn good ones, mostly, and the rest of us try our best to keep up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:01 PM on October 31, 2014 [9 favorites]


That was a really nice read, skwt. I unambiguously love this place, and it's a sum of all the little things as much as it is the big makes-a-good-story ones, and some of the ideas about community-mindedness you sketch out are a big part of why that is. Metafilter isn't perfect and can't hope to be, but it's good people.

Oh, I see you've noticed, already, your thisness.

I'm going to intentionally misparse this as you addressing Greg Nog honorifically as "Your Thisness" and maybe just do that myself from now on too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:26 PM on October 31, 2014 [22 favorites]


Thanks again everyone for the kind words.

mathowie -- thank you for the corrections, I'll tell my editor.

To the people who've caught the passport detail--good eye. That is actually from my (on the record) emails with fake, not from what had previously been the public record.

sevenyearlurk -- I remember you too! That meetup was my only experience with mefi/IRL crossover to date.
posted by skwt at 7:37 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh dammit, I knew I forgot someone--I of course also wanted to thank mrbill, who spoke to me on the phone at some length about a very hard subject.
posted by skwt at 7:47 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

Forty-one minutes later, Matt Haughey, the site’s founder, transfers him the money he needs.
Gads, I have been on here almost every day of the last six or seven years and it is amazing the things I managed to miss. Not a dry eye here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:48 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


And yet somehow the article missed when the mods murdered paphnuty.

Or something. I've never been clear on what happened to paphnuty.
posted by maxsparber at 7:51 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]


First rule of MeFi Cabal: You do not talk about paphnuty
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:56 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


That never happened!!
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:04 PM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]


And if it did happen he had it coming.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:19 PM on October 31, 2014 [27 favorites]


That was an amazing read. Wow.
posted by rtha at 8:25 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


First rule of MeFi Cabal: You do not talk about paphnuty

Second rule: There is no Cabal.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:27 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


There is no Cabal. There is only Cabeveryone.
posted by mochapickle at 8:36 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


That is a lot of fun to read, and it's always funny to step back from this place and realize how unusual our "normal" is. (Like, of course people would help out in those ways. Of course I know tons of details about the lives of thousands of pseudonymous people I'll never meet, but who I've hung out with online for mumblety years. Oh wait.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:41 PM on October 31, 2014 [10 favorites]


Great piece. I don't think this is true, though: At least one mod reads every comment in every thread on every subsite... (not since jessamyn put a stop to the "amphetamines for boys and crucifixes for ladies" Cabal custom).
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:14 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have no idea why I was singled out among the likes of real power-mefites like ColdChef, gregnog, and The Whelk.

There is no cabal.
posted by Sara C. at 9:22 PM on October 31, 2014


i had a really hard time a few years ago in my offline life and i thought about closing this account all together and reopening under a new name so i could feel comfortable being open about things going on that affected my participation - but the identity part of mefi kept me from doing it - i had built up relationships that i wasn't eager to lose through a brand new day. so instead i just shared what i could how i could until the skies cleared and i felt safe. i honestly think metafilter helped me come through some of that, being a place where i had to be careful how i worded some things which made me more introspective about how those things were playing out.

anyway - this is just a long way to say, i love y'all.
posted by nadawi at 9:22 PM on October 31, 2014 [17 favorites]


This is wonderful, this site, this article, this community, all of it. Thank you.
posted by Jubey at 9:31 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


The relationships we form here are hard to describe. I'm not a super-prolific poster--I've averaged just under one comment per day in the eight years I've been a member. But the people who noticed those comments know more about me than almost anyone I know IRL. And even with my relatively sparse comment history I've been kind of amazed at how often I meet a Mefite and they say "oh, hey, I know you, you're the voice of religious reason on Metafilter." (Almost always those words! Nice to have a niche, I suppose.) Strange to realize you are a part of the lives of people scattered all over the world, even if in a very small way. But you guys are a part of my life, too. A really big part. Metafilter accounts for about 80% of my internet activity. First site in the morning, last site at night. In the uncultured, unintellectual town I am currently exiled to, the conversation here is my best outlet for mental stimulation. And some of the finest people I know are here.

It's just a shame that you are all atheists who will burn in hell forever. Can't be helped, I suppose.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:43 PM on October 31, 2014 [73 favorites]


i had a really hard time a few years ago in my offline life and i thought about closing this account all together and reopening under a new name so i could feel comfortable being open about things going on that affected my participation - but the identity part of mefi kept me from doing it - i had built up relationships that i wasn't eager to lose through a brand new day.

I could have written this exactly. I got a new account and tried to post under it consistently. I was going to let this account fade away. But I had spent too long being Pater Aletheias. I couldn't give that name up.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:50 PM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


I have no idea why I was singled out among the likes of real power-mefites like ColdChef, gregnog, and The Whelk.

Because your contributions are fantastic. I particularly like your AskMe comments, where you always give consistently articulate, thoughtful, helpful, and realistic advice. So go you, Sara C!
posted by mochapickle at 10:13 PM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]


(Your invitation to the cabal comes at at the stroke of midnight on the new moon)
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Awww, schmoops. I love you guys.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:30 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


At least one mod reads every comment in every thread on every subsite...

Yeah, as noted this is the other factual quibble besides the stuff Matt noted; we certainly don't have eyes on every thread let alone every comment, since that'd require a tremendous amount of compulsory reading. Everything that gets flagged, we'll at least see, and we all do a greater or lesser amount of leisure reading on any given day and so we'll see a fair minority chunk of the site, but probably the number of comments we don't specifically see trumps the number we do by at least a factor of two or three.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:34 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Was glad to talk to you about what happened, and am happy to see how the end result turned out. Ive already shared this page on FB as for dome reason I can't share the article directly. Great job, Stephen!
posted by mrbill at 10:36 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


Pater Aletheias: "I could have written this exactly. I got a new account and tried to post under it consistently. I was going to let this account fade away. But I had spent too long being Pater Aletheias. I couldn't give that name up."

Same here, mostly just to drop the 420 reference. What seemed funny more than a decade ago just seems silly now, but I've posted under it for thirteen years now, and switching to a new account felt so weird that I just mothballed it and went back to being me.

This article was a love letter. It articulated well how I feel about this community. You guys are my people, and I love you for that.
posted by dejah420 at 11:04 PM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


We have off brand beer and some rare vinyl, jon. C'mon.

Also, cameras! Loved this article, it did a great job of distilling why this place is so singularly great. Well done, skwt.
posted by axiom at 11:04 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm honored to have the first username callout in the piece. I think it's fantastic.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:04 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]




I comment very rarely, but I saw that article today and my immediate thought was "aww, that's us!" I'm like your relative who is totally happy to see everyone, but would rather sit in the corner and wave occasionally.
posted by atropos at 11:32 PM on October 31, 2014 [9 favorites]


Also pollomacho got a Meritorious Service award for working on trafficking...
posted by fake at 11:38 PM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


That was a great article.

It felt good to share some additional backstory, like the passport stuff. At the time, I did not want to publicly disclose any information about their passports, or anything <>
Another untold bit of story: I had a very good friend living in DC. Before I asked the question here, I called this person and asked them if they could meet up with the girls (who were stuck in a hotel lobby just blocks from her and going a little crazy). This person declined to get involved at all, saying that they felt it was 'dangerous'. I was stunned, because my first reaction to a 'dangerous' thing is to get involved. Later, I realized that answer was sensible, but it really put the outpouring of help here (and the specific help from Kathrine) in a different light.

As you can see in the updates above, the world has gotten better at thwarting trafficking since then. We're a part of that. I'm proud.

Thanks again for the great writeup Stephen.
posted by fake at 11:51 PM on October 31, 2014 [13 favorites]


I read a lot of these stories as they were happening and still ended up crying again reading it now.

I remembered the passport detail, then remembered thinking, wait, with the passport thing, all of the "maybe this isn't so bad" excuses pretty much vanish, why were people trying to say it wasn't so bad? It's good to know that really was a new detail and people weren't just being more awful than I remembered them being at the time.

I have indeed swapped names several times, mostly because I had exes who I knew had seen me posting and didn't want them to be seeing my current activity if they remembered my usernames. And I've never done any of the meetup stuff. But it's still good to know that people are out there, somehow, who are real.
posted by Sequence at 12:24 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm on the verge of tears reading this.
posted by naju at 1:17 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


That was a good article, skwt. A great survey of the site over the last bunch of years. Kudos, man, kudos.

I wrote a really long thing counting the ways but really it comes down to: you guys are all pretty fucking great.

Also there is no Cabal, that's just a shitty anti-Semitic slur. There is, however a conspiracy. Though of course, there is no conspricacy...
posted by From Bklyn at 1:40 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was prepared to go all eye-rolly at someone's warm, fuzzy essay, but I couldn't actually read the whole thing in one go because after swallowing really hard, I realized I was blinking back tears. I remember most of what's in it from the first time around, but pieced together in this way, framed in this manner, it's beautiful. I'm sorry I was prepared to be such a cynic.

By the way, "Steve Thomas" was my father's fake name when he was a radio news guy back in the day.
posted by houseofdanie at 1:41 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Another shout from the side-lines: usually, when articles about stuff you know/live get it wrong, you just chalk it up to the inevitable distance between the thing and its imaging in the media. But this piece does a great job at teasing out what makes this place so special, so treasured.

Not sure what the European contingent is here (so low its percentage is negligible, I guess?), but whenever a whatsapp-or-facebook-checking colleague cranes round and asks: what's that blue stuff you're hooked on?, it feels worthwhile every time to try to let them in on the secrets of MeFi's singular embrace - if only because, yeah, Everyone needs a hug.
posted by progosk at 2:03 AM on November 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


> Not sure what the European contingent is here (so low its percentage is negligible, I guess?)

Hey, MartinWisse is doing his level best.
posted by jfuller at 3:21 AM on November 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


That was a beautiful article. I generally have a hard time describing the MetaFilter community without it seeming like a cult, I think I'll just give people the link to this piece instead.

A few years ago my job was suddenly cut back to 10 hours a week and I was transferred from an office within walking distance from my apartment to a place forty-five minutes away by bus. It was a difficult, hectic time in my life and the people who helped me the most (excepting my parents) were MeFites who had become friends and friends who had become MeFites. They even threw me a birthday party. MeFites are always ready to help. MetaFilter is a community of friendship and love.

There I go again, making MetaFilter sound like a cult. Maybe I'll stick with "family of strangers" from the article.

Actually, "family of strangers" doesn't sound any less like a description of a cult. Whatever, I love this place.
posted by Kattullus at 3:42 AM on November 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Fabulous, and totally mirrors my perspective on this wonderful place. I don't love you all, but I love most of you, and family is right. The IRL friendships are precious things, the web friendships nearly as much so, & the helpful interactions when I needed it most, like my kiddo's first few months at college, really saved my bacon, literally. Knowing that I could probably trust a total stranger to let me wire them CASH & that this stranger would thereupon drive across town to take said cash to the kid was an actual lifesaver. I've still yet to meet Misha in person but she's A #1, I will vote for her first, sorry quidnunc kid.

As an Important Mefite I'm a bit baffled that I didn't get a personal shout out like some people, but there's always next time.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:24 AM on November 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


That was a sweet article and brought back a lot of memories.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:55 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just woke my husband up by alternately crying and giggling my way through the article and then this thread. "CAN'T YOU READ SOMETHING LESS EMOTIONAL RIGHT NOW?!" he grumbles at me.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:59 AM on November 1, 2014 [14 favorites]


The typical visitor shops at Cold Water Creek

Vindicated, all you tiny little Uniqlo people!
posted by drlith at 6:16 AM on November 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Not sure what the European contingent is here

Erudite, well spoken, charming. Same as in town.
posted by ersatz at 6:21 AM on November 1, 2014 [15 favorites]


At least one mod reads every comment in every thread on every subsite

Nice article....but they got that wrong.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:40 AM on November 1, 2014


Not sure what the European contingent is here

Erudite, well spoken, charming. Same as in town.
posted by ersatz An Hour Ago


Yeah man, that's like totally what we're about.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:33 AM on November 1, 2014


but they got that wrong.

Every flag, most likely.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:50 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've averaged just under one comment per day in the eight years I've been a member. But the people who noticed those comments know more about me than almost anyone I know IRL. And even with my relatively sparse comment history I've been kind of amazed at how often I meet a Mefite and they say "oh, hey, I know you, you're the voice of religious reason on Metafilter." (Almost always those words! Nice to have a niche, I suppose.)

Having been raised in a very different religious milieu than the one you come from, I really can't stress enough how much I enjoy reading your contributions about Christianity.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:42 AM on November 1, 2014 [10 favorites]



Another great piece to add to the canon that summarizes what makes Metafilter great and a community.

love y'all.
posted by fizzix at 9:53 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Shops at The Container Store, more like. (Didn't Coldwater Creek go out of business?)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:09 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


This was a delight to read. You'd better make it out to the next Toronto meetup, skwt, because I definitely want to buy you drink!
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:29 AM on November 1, 2014


They sold their bricks-and-mortar locations and went online only.

Every flag, most likely.

#NotAllFlags
posted by dhartung at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2014


I didn't do it
posted by flabdablet at 10:33 AM on November 1, 2014


Pater Aletheias's comments on theology are always really interesting, and I'm sincerely glad he's still here. That said, I'll be glad to see the rest of you all in hell when the time comes.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:52 AM on November 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Subsite pony request: hell.metafilter.com
posted by mochapickle at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


why would we need that when we have metatalk
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:57 AM on November 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm happy Greg Nog was referred to as "This guy" and not "That guy." There are too many That Guys around, and Greg is clearly a This Guy.
posted by bondcliff at 12:42 PM on November 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


it's hard for me not to hear "This Guy" in a southern NH "THIS GUYEEEE" accent with the image of a huge BostonIrish fella grabbing me roughly around the shoulders while I subtly attempt to extricate myself from his jovial grasp
posted by Greg Nog at 12:46 PM on November 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


That was wonderful. Thanks to skwt for writing it and joseph for posting.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:49 PM on November 1, 2014


MetaFilter, putting the we in weblog since 1999.
posted by oulipian at 12:52 PM on November 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


I for one am astonished that Pater Aletheis posts one comment a day. How is it possible I manage to follow a thread and hit that one comment every day, and that one comment leaves a lasting impression on me?

Nope, not possible. Somewhere on the site there is an Amanda Bynes thread I skipped over where Pater is acting like a yahoo and posting a bunch of noise.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:57 PM on November 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


i had a really hard time a few years ago in my offline life and i thought about closing this account all together and reopening under a new name so i could feel comfortable being open about things going on that affected my participation - but the identity part of mefi kept me from doing it - i had built up relationships that i wasn't eager to lose through a brand new day.


I could have written this, too... lately I've been getting really freaked out about letting my "real" life cross over into my online life, and vice versa. I've said a lot of things here that I've never actually said to people who know me by my face, and when I think about letting even the coolest, smartest of those people come over here to hang out... ack. But there are people I like who know me by what I post here. So... I guess I figure out how to deal with this freakout. Deedle dee, being a human is weird, I'm gonna go do some homework.
posted by palomar at 2:07 PM on November 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


Great article!
posted by homunculus at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2014


I totally choked up when I read about mathowie paying mrbill's wife's medical bill. I had forgotten about that. Thanks skwt for an awesome read.
posted by radioamy at 3:14 PM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Re-reading the thread about the socially anxious couple needing a witness for their wedding. Choking up again.
posted by radioamy at 3:19 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Shout out to this Katherine Gutierrez lady she sounds like the type of people who might meet all sorts of bewildered newbies and hang out with them and listen to their woes and tell them which neighborhoods are ok and make them generally feel a bit more welcome in the terrifying bewildering glitter maze of New York City. Potentially.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:31 PM on November 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


God, looking back, I guess I didn't participate in that AskMe thread at all (there's nothing I would have been able to do to help anyway) but, of all the things going on that weekend (including my parents being in town, my law school graduation, and my cat almost dying, costing me suddenly thousands out of pocket) that crisis and Station #9's response is the thing I remember most clearly.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:43 PM on November 1, 2014


Great article, and congratulations (again), skwt!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:20 PM on November 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


And thanks for all of the kind words.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:20 PM on November 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm a little verklempt.
posted by amro at 5:24 PM on November 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


!!!

I always appreciated your contributions to the site, ifdssn9, and I had the suspicion you switched names a few times after everything went down with the Russians. But I'm not a member of the cabal, so I didn't know what your new name was (if you had one at all). Whenever the Russian stuff came up, it reminded me that I missed seeing your comments. I'm glad to see your name back!
posted by meese at 5:30 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, I was a little overwhelmed by the attention (and had other things going on) so I retired this name for a while!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:04 PM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, totally understandable.
posted by meese at 6:15 PM on November 1, 2014


Read this with Tina on my lap. Hugs all.
posted by k8t at 8:09 PM on November 1, 2014 [43 favorites]


I've had people ask me what makes MetaFilter different than All a Those Other Places. The only answer I've been able to come up with is that on MetaFilter the user base seems to operate from a presumption that everyone is a human first, and that most users try to behave as their best selves.

MetaFilter is what I've always wished the small American communities in which I've lived could actually be: networked without being intrusive. Diverse without being xenophobic. The true ideal of community. We are a long, LONG way from that being a lived reality in the actual US, and there are times when MetaFilter has been a lifeline to help me maintain my optimism in the face of truly overwhelming garbage.

More than anything, I think MetaFilter's culture has demonstrated that there is no difference between the "real world" and MetaFilter: you are who you are, and your values are what they are, whether you're espousing those values here or in person.

Thanks for writing this, skwt. It was a real pleasure to read.
posted by scrump at 2:07 AM on November 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


This was great.
posted by absalom at 9:30 AM on November 2, 2014


I love you, individually and collectively, Metafilter.
posted by SlyBevel at 12:34 PM on November 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “And I say to you that we are full of chemicals which require us to belong to folk societies, or failing that, to feel lousy all the time. We are chemically engineered to live in folk societies, just as fish are chemically engineered to live in clean water—and there aren’t any folk societies for us anymore.”—Wampeters, Foma, And Granfalloons

MetaFilter IS our folk society.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 4:11 PM on November 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


Mm. This is great. I have fond memories of helping out in some of those earlier threads, and the Ferguson threads (all four...no, eight or nine of them, all told) basically helped me keep everything straight and work through so many thoughts and feelings in the first 2 1/2 months after Mike Brown's death. I've had a lot going on in the couple of weeks since the last thread ended, as my husband and I both got sick and he wound up in the hospital, but as we come up on the three-month anniversary of Brown's death, I'm hoping to find some time to post a new Ferguson thread.

I love you all.
posted by limeonaire at 8:34 PM on November 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think of metafilter as a really pleasant, committed little neighborhood. My profile says that Metafilter makes me smarter and more attractive. It's also made me a MUCH better neighbor.
posted by pomegranate at 2:42 AM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I adore this damn site. I have learned so much from Metafilter - so many ways to see the world, things I would never have learned from my own experiences. It's made me a better person.

The Mefites I've met are incredible too. You all know who you are.
posted by cmyk at 3:44 AM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


That was so, so sweet. I've never been a power user, but I did (under a previous account) ask one of the iconic anonymous questions referenced in that article and have been glad to know that, in the years since then, the answers that most helped me also helped plenty of others.
posted by psoas at 5:06 PM on November 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Thank you so much, skwt. In addition to loving the article, I had somehow missed the story of k8t's Tina-cat (who looks just like my big boy kitty) and read the whole thread as if it were happening live. I'm still misty eyed.

I'm not the best contributor around here, but I love Metafilter and am so grateful to be a small part of the community!
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:07 AM on November 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't contribute that much, but I recently crossed over 1000 comments, and I want to thank you all for having me. MF has really shaped the way I think about the world, in particular gender, race and class. And online community, of course.

I'm also one of the small percent of Europeans on here, BTW. Sadly, I've never knowingly met another MeFite in the flesh.
posted by Harald74 at 4:06 AM on November 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'm between jobs, and I was let go from the pizza mines right around the time when my car insurance was due. I was helped out greatly by a MeFite that I won't name (for fear of embarrassing him). He really saved the day for me.
posted by JHarris at 9:27 AM on November 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am a member of a couple of email lists that mrbill runs. While those groups of people are very good when compared to the rest of the Internet, I was struck at the time by the disparity between how Metafilter and the list subscribers responded to Amy's death. They were all very respectful, but it looked like Mefites came out of the woodwork with real support. (Not to put words in mrbill's mouth, of course!)

I have only been a member for a few years, but things I have read here have really changed how I think. And I am proud every time I see one of you Favorite something I wrote because I respect you all so much.

Group hug!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:27 AM on November 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


wenestvedt, I'd say there's a huge disparity between MeFi, where we tend to think of each other like family, and my geek-centric lists, where it's more like a bunch of buddies shooting the bull at a junk hardware swap meet - even though some of us have known each other for decades, there's still a bit of "personal distance".

Here, it's "OMG I'm sorry what can I do to help, so many hugs". There, it's "Uhm, oh man. Sorry to hear that.." Not a bad thing, just the different way two groups react.
posted by mrbill at 12:54 PM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Point well-taken, mrbill. But that cultural difference never became so obvious until a real crisis happened.

I appreciate that the reasons the two groups exist are so different, and how that affects the communities that sprung up -- but I have become spoiled by this place and another where the members really come together to support each other.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:10 PM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I read this this morning without knowing that it was an article about MetaFilter! Then I realised the IRL names looked really familiar, and settled in for a good twenty minutes of a heartwarming read. I'm glad to have found this place, because I wouldn't be me otherwise, I don't think. (And if anyone in Singapore needs anything...)
posted by undue influence at 6:31 PM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I liked it a lot, though it really makes MeFi sound much more like the networks in the fictional SF story Maneki Neko (originally published in 1998 by Bruce Stterling but about ubiquitous social networks that travel with us all day long and can influence the real world in startling ways) than it really is.
posted by artlung at 1:59 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


That was really tense (I went and read the original Ask thread on the Russian girls) and heart-warming and sweet. Makes me really feel pleased to be such a small part of something so awesome. And gave me that extra push to sign up for Quonsmas, even though I will be travelling, because it's one of the best ways I can think of to keep participating in the awesome.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:13 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I went and listened to podcast #9 for the ColdChef interview and it was indeed awesome.
posted by bq at 8:02 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


The link made it to Hacker News, and I was briefly worried they'd be, I dunno, dismissive or something, but they seem cool with it.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:32 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I want to second the sentiment raised in the following: I have the thousands and thousands of comments in these two threads in 2007 to thank for giving me up-close-and-personal insights into women’s experiences to a degree I’d never had access to, even from my closest female friends and girlfriends, which more or less singlehandedly changed the way I thought about feminism overnight. And the conversations about privilege, and race. And just empathizing with other people. And it's just all of these other mefites sharing and arguing. This place has changed my mind, my perspective about so many things.
posted by zenon at 10:16 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter's been the one and only community I've belonged to over the course of my adult life. I joined it when I was 19 and it has shaped my life in a whole bunch of ways too involved to get into without full-blown essaying all over the place.

This article is pretty fantastic. Yay :)
posted by rorgy at 3:22 PM on November 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've averaged just under one comment per day in the eight years I've been a member. But the people who noticed those comments know more about me than almost anyone I know IRL.

Well, they say the internet remembers forever, but I didn't realize that was so true here...

MetaFilter users are what I would characterize as “self-consciously smart,” which, I promise, doesn’t play out as gratingly as it sounds.


Wait, I was supposed to be smart? Could you guys just hold judgment on me for like, 5 or 50 years?
posted by halifix at 6:20 PM on November 14, 2014


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