Non-garbage! July 23, 2015 8:43 AM   Subscribe

In an interview discussing how the Internet is largely garbage (which is what her new book is about), Sarah Jeong mentions MetaFilter in passing as a curious exception.
Metafilter is an unusually good online community, for many, many reasons, including robust moderation and a $5 sign-up fee. For obvious reasons, most platforms can’t just become Metafilter. Social media platforms are really struggling with these problems right now, and are resorting to some tactics that I criticize in the book as either unethical or doomed to fail.
posted by ignignokt to MetaFilter-Related at 8:43 AM (71 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

Sometimes it's difficult being part of this elite of amoral superbeings, but then I gaze down upon the plebs and smile.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:49 AM on July 23, 2015 [48 favorites]


Ha, yeah, I've been pleased to see her mentioning us in interviews about the book. It'll be interesting to see if the idea of "treat moderation as skilled work" catches on more, or if places will just keep looking for the technological fix.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:50 AM on July 23, 2015 [31 favorites]


Metafilter: Not Garbage
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:50 AM on July 23, 2015 [62 favorites]


For obvious reasons, most platforms can’t just become Metafilter.

"If you wish to make a MetaFilter from scratch, you must first invent the mathowie." - Carl Sagan [apocryphal]
posted by Etrigan at 8:52 AM on July 23, 2015 [83 favorites]


The internet double-conforms to Sturgeons Revelation: 90% of everything is crap, and 90% of the remaining 10% is also crap.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:57 AM on July 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see if the idea of "treat moderation as skilled work" catches on more, or if places will just keep looking for the technological fix.

I wonder if the shake-up we're seeing at reddit is a sign of the end of communities that large. I think it's just not possible to have a site that large with paid skilled moderation. You'd need to hire an army of people, and even if you have the money the supply of people with the skills and the connection to their communities that MeFi moderators have is just too small. Maybe we'll see a move away from the aggregation trend and towards a fragmentation back into smaller, better-moderated communities.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:00 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sturgeons Revelation

And when he had taken the book, 90 percent of the beasts and 90 percent of 90 percent of the elders fell down before the Sturgeons, having every one of them web sites, and golden vials full of moderators, which are the prayers of saints.
posted by maxsparber at 9:00 AM on July 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


Sometimes it's difficult being part of this elite of amoral superbeings, but then I gaze down upon the plebs and smile.

But one day all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and you'll look down and I think we know what you will say.
posted by biffa at 9:55 AM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've got the feeling of a jungle rhythm beating in me?
posted by maxsparber at 9:57 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sometimes it's difficult being part of this elite of amoral superbeings, but then I gaze down upon the plebs and smile.

But one day all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and you'll look down and I think we know what you will say.


$20, same as in town?
posted by carsonb at 10:00 AM on July 23, 2015 [40 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see if the idea of "treat moderation as skilled work" catches on more, or if places will just keep looking for the technological fix.

This was the lesson from the AOL moderator lawsuit in the 90s. Instead of hiring moderators as actual staff, the lesson every company actually took away was "don't have moderators" and now here we are with nearly every comment site a cesspool and "Don't read the comments" a commonly understood law.

Slashdot and Advogato among others have tried some innovated methods to deal with moderation - slashdot with the karma and moderator system and Advogato with their "trust" method. I'm sure there are more. Point is, they suck in various ways because good moderation is labor intensive (read expensive), and very few CEOs are inclined to pay what the job costs.

And even at that - it is no panacea. Gawker had a whole team of editors and still ran that idiotic Gay CFO blackmail story. Any decision left to judgement will, at some point, succumb to bad judgement.

The moderation here is amazing. I'd be impressed if it spread. However, I am not optimistic.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:13 AM on July 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


How nice! Is she a member here? Hi Sarah hi
posted by Greg Nog at 10:29 AM on July 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's a pity we're going extinct.
posted by PenDevil at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2015


Every time I post or comment here, I'm worried I'm muddying the waters with my sub-par thoughts. Now that MeFi is confirmed non-garbage by an expert, I'm even less likely to voice my opinions unless I can instantly think of a sure-to-please zinger, or have a relevant cat picture to share.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:31 AM on July 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


We're like a refuge after the zombie apocalypse. Thank you mods for preventing our brains from being eaten.
posted by XMLicious at 10:38 AM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Does this make us the Alexandria safe-zone, or a shopping mall?
posted by tzikeh at 10:50 AM on July 23, 2015


It'll be interesting to see if the idea of "treat moderation as skilled work" catches on more, or if places will just keep looking for the technological fix.

Split the difference: cyborg mods. Maybe with some sort of lasers? Call me.
posted by griphus at 11:02 AM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


1-719-266-2837
posted by carsonb at 11:11 AM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the shake-up we're seeing at reddit is a sign of the end of communities that large.

There are a lot of subreddits with pretty hands-on moderation. Indeed, both MetaFilter and AskMe are each themselves the size of one of the smaller medium size subreddits.

So maybe the future of quality forums may be smaller forums like MetaFilter and AskMe, generally homogenous in outlook and culture, that can be more easily moderated/policed to ensure there is more of sense of community.
posted by Nevin at 11:13 AM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


NPR's On Point had a discussion yesterday about online interactions and transparency vs privacy and open discussion vs "censorship", and they didn't once mention MetaFilter. It was all about reddit and 4chan and stuff, and it was sad that they never once even noticed that the internet doesn't have to be that way.
posted by hippybear at 11:16 AM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


So maybe the future of quality forums may be smaller forums like MetaFilter and AskMe, generally homogenous in outlook and culture, that can be more easily moderated/policed to ensure there is more of sense of community.

Dan Sinker was calling for this, but in an even more general way the other day:
Been thinking about "Web Design: The First 100 Years" all day. Specifically the section about "internet scale" (1/7)

This fallacy that we live by now that ideas aren't worth anything unless they are "web scale" just feels incredibly damaging. (2)

Look at the heaping pile of garbage that is the "web scale" internet. Maybe chasing VC dollars and VC scale wasn't the best idea. (3)

In the pursuit of massive money, we left so much by the side of the road. We ignored people & ran right over whatever was in our way. (4)

We're awash in crap "web scale" ideas. Let's go back to human scale. Let's build things, communities, livelihoods, that are small again. (5)

"Web scale" had its chance, and it's by and large destroyed the web. So let's start over. Let's go back to me-and-you scale. (6)

Small ideas are incredible. Build them! They will bring so much joy. Build stuff for 100 people. For 1000. Think of the possibilities! (7)
As a guy that loves the hell out of small ideas, I so hope that this catches on as a result of people getting tired of "web scale" garbage. Generality is good, but specificity is also good!
posted by ignignokt at 11:24 AM on July 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


...generally homogenous in outlook and culture...

You're thinking of yogurt again, buddy.
posted by griphus at 11:46 AM on July 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Now that MeFi is confirmed non-garbage by an expert, I'm even less likely to voice my opinions unless I can instantly think of a sure-to-please zinger, or have a relevant cat picture to share.

You're coming at this backwards. You, as a member of the Internet Elite, have been officially confirmed as Not Garbage. Even your dumbest, most thoughtless & typo-laden joke is instantly Noteworthy and Admirable.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:49 AM on July 23, 2015 [35 favorites]


In an older, more backwards time, antediluvian Mefites worried that the content that showed up on the front page wasn't "the best of the web." We know better, now. We know that when graced with our imprimatur content becomes the de facto best of the web. I shall now search YouTube for "large dog hilarious farting problem" to find a FPP with which to welcome the new supplicants Ms. Jeong has directed our way.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:55 AM on July 23, 2015 [24 favorites]


Sarah Jeong is the bomb.
posted by latkes at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Amoral superbeings.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:32 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I shall now search YouTube for "large dog hilarious farting problem"

Now I am in a wormhole of farting dog videos and they are HILARIOUS
posted by maxsparber at 12:32 PM on July 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


You're thinking of yogurt again, buddy.

Cottage cheese, actually.
posted by Nevin at 12:52 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


A note:

If, like me, you are a bit uneasy that carsonb posted what looked like a legit phone number in here, fret not - that number is apparently the phone number for "Call 'N Oates", a recorded-message service that does nothing but play Hall and Oates songs at you.

So no worries, instead you now know about a cool thing that exists.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:54 PM on July 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


I coulda SWORN that was the number griphus gave me. Damn, no wonder!
posted by carsonb at 1:09 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is succinct and well put:

Moderation paradoxically increases the number of voices heard, because some kinds of speech chills other speech.

(It's interesting that "some kinds of speech chills" violates English grammar, but when I tried changing "chills" to "chill" it didn't sound right. Language is weird.)
posted by languagehat at 1:27 PM on July 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


We are so smart!
We are so smart!
S-M-R-T!
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:27 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


cyborg mods. Maybe with some sort of lasers? Call me.


Or avoid the impending cyber-laser-griph-mageddon by voting #1 quidnunc kid.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:30 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


If, like me, you are a bit uneasy that carsonb posted what looked like a legit phone number in here, fret not - that number is apparently the phone number for "Call 'N Oates", a recorded-message service that does nothing but play Hall and Oates songs at you.

Oh, I just assumed it was Lindsay Graham's number.
posted by quaking fajita at 1:41 PM on July 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


Does this make us the Alexandria safe-zone, or a shopping mall?

I've always thought of this more as a Vault 101-type situation.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:41 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or avoid the impending cyber-laser-griph-mageddon by voting #1 quidnunc kid.

I have neither the time nor energy for a -mageddon anymore. It's maybe an -acylsm and at best a -tastrophe.
posted by griphus at 1:46 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


♪We will, we will mock you♪
posted by Cranberry at 1:50 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


All kidding aside, MetaFilter really is a treasure. The way the site has evolved over the years has made it able to be an oasis in the vast desert of shit that is the Internet. It really is the best general discussion site in existence, not just because the mods and the community work together to maintain a high level of content and discussion quality, but also because the community is fairly serious about correcting its own issues with regard to shitty behavior.

I know I'm one of the users often dragging the site towards Garbage territory, but every now and then I'm struck by how grateful I am that this place exists and works the way it does. Myself, and the Internet would be much poorer without it. Here's hoping the people of the future are still browsing MetaFilter on the Universal Psychic Network when we've all become energy beings.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:09 PM on July 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Between Jess Zimmerman tweeting "Metafilter reliably justifies the existence of the internet," and Sarah Jeong holding it up as an unusual example of non-garbage, it's a pretty good week for Super Rad People evangelizing this site.
posted by naju at 2:14 PM on July 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


But one day all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and you'll look down and I think we know what you will say.

Web juice? Yeah, HUMAN web juice.

I resent anything positive about Sarah Jeong as I continue to pine away missing 5UA. That newsletter was one of the highlights of my week. It cannot come back soon enough.
posted by phearlez at 2:23 PM on July 23, 2015


There are a lot of subreddits with pretty hands-on moderation.

Indeed and I'm surprised Reddit hasn't tried to ... work on that somehow as part of their current PR disaster. Because it's amazing what the functional subreddits have been able to create despite the almost complete disinterest in moderation practices, tools, and techniques from people higher up the food chain. They could really be setting the standard because they have such a large platform and yet they just waffle between stupid totalitarianism and lip service to free speech. The work that some of the unpaid moderators of some of the subreddits do is really good work and yet it goes almost entirely unnoticed and unappreciated by Reddit generally. At least being a mod here you get props from not just the community but also the "owner" (hi mathowie!) who also agrees that having good moderation is job #1.

Sarah Jeong is the real deal and I'm glad to see her book getting the attention it rightly deserves.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:05 PM on July 23, 2015 [22 favorites]


I have neither the time nor energy for a -mageddon anymore. It's maybe an -acylsm and at best a -tastrophe

Don't believe him, MetaFilter. The guy is a serial 'mageddonist, a real 'mageddon artist if I ever saw one. Sure, he'll tell you he's just planning an simple sunday lunchtime 'acylsm, or maybe a quiet 'tastrophe with friends, and you'll nod away and think nothing of it. And then - BAM! Hot, wet, sticky 'mageddon, all over your new shirt. And your dry-cleaner won't get THAT out in a hurry, let me tell you. No, you just stick with quidnunc kid and his no-mageddon guarantee. You can't be too careful these days. An "'acylsm", he says! Next he'll be telling you its just an -ocalypse! No, you vote #1 quidnunc kid.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:09 PM on July 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


Moderation in all things.

Except beer.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:29 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


And puns.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:55 PM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Metafilter seems to have found a way to balance anonymity with a hierarchy built on reputation. I suppose it's a mixture of the $5, wise moderation, and a long tradition of mutual respect. Whatever it is, glad to be a part, though I'm also cognizant that I have a part to play. Kind of a—Be the contributor you'd want to read. It's not about you, it's about us.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:54 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


prize bull octorok: "We know that when graced with our imprimatur content becomes the de facto best of the web."

It won't be come de jure best of the web unless Proposition 304 passes, and we all pray it will.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:58 PM on July 23, 2015


And then - BAM! Hot, wet, sticky 'mageddon, all over your new shirt.

At which point you'll likely exclaim, "Now, I'mageddon pretty dang tired of this here nonsense!"
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:09 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Language is weird.)
posted by languagehat


I've been waiting years to see him make that confession.

As for me, I'd look at that awkward phrase for 5-10 minutes and then make it slightly more awkward but grammatically bulletproof by adding a 'singular/plural-neutral' word like "some kinds of speech WOULD chill".
please please please don't try to parse that last sentence
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:58 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


$5 same as in town
posted by Sebmojo at 9:09 PM on July 23, 2015


Moderation in all things.

...including moderation.
posted by pompomtom at 9:51 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see if the idea of "treat moderation as skilled work" catches on more, or if places will just keep looking for the technological fix.

Sadly, I feel like the urge to industrialize all labor (except maybe management) is pretty much a hardwired thing in Western thought. Creating newer, more expensive technological solutions is the first go-to now in many cases where training people to do the thing better is a far more effective and efficient approach....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:19 AM on July 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm really looking forward to picking this up and reading it. It looks like good stuff and has been uniformly praised by people in my social media corner of the world.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:42 AM on July 24, 2015


1-719-266-2837

I thought that was going to be Lindsey Graham's phone number.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:16 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, you mean we're unethical and doomed to succeed? Ethical and booned to fail? I'll stop now
posted by eriko at 11:43 AM on July 24, 2015


But one day all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and you'll look down and I think we know what you will say.

"We have cameras."
posted by mrbill at 12:33 PM on July 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


some kinds of speech chill other speech

This sounds perfectly fine to me. Kinds is obviously the plural subject of the sentence. It's a bit awkward and I probably wouldn't leave it like that in something for publication but changing to "chills" just makes it seem completely wrong.
posted by Bringer Tom at 2:33 PM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


You realize the published interview had "chills," right?
posted by languagehat at 5:33 PM on July 25, 2015


Then it was incorrect. I miss copy editing too.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:22 PM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another person here eagerly anticipating the next 5 Useful Articles newsletter.
posted by brainwane at 12:30 AM on July 26, 2015


Metafilter is so great that I kind of wish we could be our own country
posted by clockzero at 12:33 PM on July 26, 2015


But then we would start arguing.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:58 PM on July 26, 2015


no.

No. We would not. We would be a non-dissenting utopia.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:18 PM on July 26, 2015


Metafilter is so great that I kind of wish we could be our own country

I ain't read the man myself but from summaries I understand this sort of thing to be at the core of Moldbuggian neoreaction.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 3:28 PM on July 26, 2015


Now I am in a wormhole of farting dog...

The vet'll give you something to clear those out.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:51 PM on July 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I understand this sort of thing to be at the core of Moldbuggian neoreaction"

Take "our community is so great", throw in some "people of certain races are just genetically predisposed to be happier as slaves" and "screw economic oligarchy, let's do actual monarchy with a hereditary aristocracy again" and maybe you are getting close.
posted by idiopath at 9:53 PM on July 26, 2015


"treat moderation as skilled work"

I had to read this three times before I realized that it was not about moderating treats as skilled work, but rather considering moderation as a skilled sort of thing. This was right after looking at someone's dog pics online, so maybe an honest mistake?

Moderating treats is also skilled work, though, for sure.
posted by jquinby at 12:00 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


some kinds of speech chill other speech

Screed chills.
posted by jamjam at 1:59 PM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bravo, jamjam!
posted by persona au gratin at 4:02 AM on July 28, 2015


GO METAFILTER LOOK AT US WE'RE PRETTY GREAT SO MUCH BETTER THAN THOSE CLOWNS ON THE REST OF THE INTERNET I HOPE NOBODY COMES ALONG AND DOES SOMETHING STUPID THAT MAKES US LOOK LIKE DUMB IDIOTS THAT WOULD BE TERRIBLE
posted by double block and bleed at 7:54 PM on July 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


all cyslm and no steakum
posted by nom de poop at 10:53 PM on July 28, 2015


punching up jokes is the only good use of the edit window
posted by nom de poop at 10:56 PM on July 28, 2015


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