"You were accidentally put in the bad pile.” May 3, 2016 7:13 PM   Subscribe

It’s funny. I was at the first XOXO, I give a talk about like “Hell, I don’t know, but it seems like the weather’s changing and this might be the sunset for blogs.” It was a really depressing talk. At the end I was like, “Maybe there will still be opportunities?” but two weeks later I woke up and the site was making half as much money overnight. -- Behind the scenes at Metafilter with former Maximum Leader mathowie.
posted by Chrysostom to MetaFilter-Related at 7:13 PM (129 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

My dream when I first saw the internet in the late ‘90s? I’d left a science background to do web stuff. I’d just gotten a master’s degree in soil chemistry. My other soil science friends were like, “What the fuck are you doing taking a web job?” I would say, “Someday I’d like to screw around on the web and live in the middle of nowhere and have a fast internet connection. If I made a hundred grand a year that would be like heaven.” They were like, “Yeah, right. That’ll never happen.” That was always my goal.
That is the dream, isn't it? ♥
posted by limeonaire at 7:37 PM on May 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Whew.
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on May 3, 2016


Huh.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:38 PM on May 3, 2016 [18 favorites]


Ok, I gotta wonder, what was this spike in AskMeFi traffic in early 2014?
posted by radwolf76 at 9:15 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was wondering that too....
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:15 PM on May 3, 2016


Man, Google really owe mathowie a massive apology. But the giant doesn't apologise when it steps on a bug.

mathowie, I'm glad things are working out for you at Slack and in general. Thank you, again, for what you built here.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:17 PM on May 3, 2016 [21 favorites]


Interesting read. I guess my question is: are non-scalable, labour-intensive businesses truly sustainable?
posted by My Dad at 10:20 PM on May 3, 2016


Ok, I gotta wonder, what was this spike in AskMeFi traffic in early 2014?

I made some really awesome zingers that March.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:29 PM on May 3, 2016 [16 favorites]


The grandmother's code question from JannaK was Jan 20, 2014 and was picked up by national and international media over the next five days or so. I'm guessing that's it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:34 PM on May 3, 2016 [40 favorites]


Interesting read. Hindsight is so much clearer than foresight. If you are relying on one basket full of eggs, control the basket or you will have scrambled eggs soon enough.

There is a lot to be said for putting the risk onto someone else and just ride your bike, drink your beer, hug your kid and go to work for someone else's business who is taking the risk.

There is also a lot to be said for making a lot fast, banking it, then ride your bike, drink your beer, hug your kid and NOT go to work.

Regardless of whatever I am trying to say, good luck Matt. Thanks for the site. Much appreciation.
posted by AugustWest at 10:40 PM on May 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


Okay, I know this has nothing to do with the content of the article but I have to get it off my back. I CAN'T FUCKING STAND MEDIUM.COM. Literally everything about that site makes me want to stab someone. (Again, speaking of the technical side, not the content side.) The fucking ghastly layout, the fucking 2.7 MB of JavaScript and 930 KB of CSS and the 568 KB of HTML necessary to convey a simple 3000 word article, the shitty fucking headers and footers and come and go randomly like an uninvited stranger, the fucking "don't miss the next story" pester window that flies out unexpectedly, the fucking analytics that crawl up your ass and measure and log when and where you scroll, how fast you read, what parts you highlight, etc.; the fucking "take over your browser's highlight feature" bullshit. I hate you, you're everything that's wrong with the modern web.

I'm sorry for the off-topic rant. That site makes me fume.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:31 AM on May 4, 2016 [96 favorites]


are non-scalable, labour-intensive businesses truly sustainable?

No clearly the only sustainable businesses are those that rely on unbounded exponential growth
posted by aubilenon at 12:41 AM on May 4, 2016 [34 favorites]


>are non-scalable, labour-intensive businesses truly sustainable?

No clearly the only sustainable businesses are those that rely on unbounded exponential growth


Do you run a business? I'm self-employed. I can't scale what I do. So I work a lot. I get kind of tired sometimes. I can relate to Matt's quandary.

What about you? What has your experience been like? I'd like to know.
posted by My Dad at 12:52 AM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


missing hamburger tag
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:16 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Bits of this were painful to read because it reminded me of when I worked for my Dad around the time his business was struggling due to the recession. It is stressful and draining running your own business, especially during times of crisis; it's your baby and you feel responsible for everyone and everything. But on the employee side it's stressful and frustrating to see the changes or steps someone should be taking but aren't because they're paralysed in some way and just too afraid of the impending loss. Waiting for a year and a half for things just to get better...yeah. Painful. My Dad had to drastically downsize his business and now five years later he's much happier, and I'm glad Matt is sounding happier too, but it's hard not to think in both cases "if only..."
posted by billiebee at 1:43 AM on May 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


missing hamburger tag

The drive-by comment was also probably missing the "people, including employees and my family depend on me to make things work in my non-scalable business" tag as well. If you have never been in a situation where employees or family depend on you to keep things going, then you have no idea what you're talking about when it comes to running a business.
posted by My Dad at 2:10 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Psst, "hamburger" means "sarcastic joke".
posted by Etrigan at 3:11 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think "you were accidentally put in the bad pile" will now be my go-to response for a number of occasions.
posted by Justinian at 3:48 AM on May 4, 2016 [43 favorites]


But no one can answer the question: if you gave me $5 million to invest in MetaFilter, what would you do with it to make it better or worth more?

I bet there's a place this question could have been asked and answered quite capably.
posted by kimberussell at 3:52 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Chatfilter, kimberussell. Chatfilter.
posted by gingerest at 4:06 AM on May 4, 2016 [20 favorites]


But no one can answer the question: if you gave me $5 million to invest in MetaFilter, what would you do with it to make it better or worth more?

I'm thinking, MeFi themed Masaratis. Like, one in blue, one in AskMe green, one in grey. And, I suppose, a professional white one.

What? Lots of places provide company cars...
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:40 AM on May 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


I like that he's thinking of making this an employee-owned company. That seems right, to me, since the staff make the place function. (It's important to make sure employees who leave are divested appropriately, but otherwise this kind of ESOP option is strongly associated with really good businesses.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:08 AM on May 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


All of a sudden Ask MetaFilter’s like double the traffic, triple the traffic. Then all of a sudden, 90% of the traffic, and 90% of the money.

My lore knowledge is shaky but wasn't askme jessamyn's idea?
posted by beerperson at 5:29 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I liked the article, and it made me think even more highly of Matt. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:31 AM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I didn’t think of it that way, stupidly. I don’t mean to sound like a goofy politician but I came from meager means. My parents always had shitty small businesses that never made much money. I didn’t have any adults, like country club adults, around me to to tell me, “Oh, you should have a lawyer for that, you should incorporate as this in this state and you could avoid this tax.” I didn’t know anybody like that. I was financially illiterate until my early 20's.

...

It’s easy to say in hindsight that if I had known any of that stuff in 2005, things would’ve been drastically different. But weirdly, people hardly ever write about it honestly online: how to be a business-y adult, or when they do write about it, they write for an audience of people who already know. People tend to talk about it in a shorthand. Because everyone knows this, right? Wrong.


I have never run a business, but I could really relate to this as someone who has had to figure out financial stuff entirely on my own. Without the kind of enveloping support structure he talks about, you figure it out by getting shit wrong again and again and again. When you are lucky the consequences of those learning experiences are minor, but often they are not. And with a business, there are other people who are affected by those missteps, and that came through loud and clear in this article.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:44 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


My lore knowledge is shaky but wasn't askme jessamyn's idea?

The earliest mention I can find is RakDaddy in 2001, but I didn't look that hard. Banished brings it up again in June, 2003. A short while later (December), Hackworth starts up ProtoAskMetafilter on a separate domain, spurring mathowie to actually launch AskMe.
posted by zamboni at 5:58 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think MetaTalk was Jessamyn's idea?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:59 AM on May 4, 2016


Interesting read. I guess my question is: are non-scalable, labour-intensive businesses truly sustainable?

This is why not-for-profit profit models exist, and why they outlast for-profit businesses by a big margin.
posted by Miko at 6:30 AM on May 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm so glad and excited to hear there are 6 months salary in the bank! Working for a nonprofit, that was always the fear - that the money would run out all of a sudden and everyone would be screwed. It's nice to hear there are nets.
posted by corb at 6:31 AM on May 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think the Metafilter Mascot, a guy in a giant furry pony costume, was Jessamyn's idea.
posted by bondcliff at 6:32 AM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


it's so funny that Matt works at slack now because I spent more time using slack for work than I do participating here, and a just a few years ago I would camp out here all day and comment and participate in my little bits of work downtime across the day.

So uh, I guess I follow Matt?
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:33 AM on May 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


My lore knowledge is shaky but wasn't askme jessamyn's idea?

I don't believe it was. However, my understanding is that to all intents and purposes it was her project. She made it her own, so to speak. She was the mod who managed AskMe, turned it into a valuable resource and then cultivated it so it would remain useful. Jessamyn instituted and enforced rules and established the idea that commenters had to give answers to questions, stopped them from creating huge chatty derails -- and did many other things that maintained and protected the subsite's utility to the community. Without her influence and efforts, AskMe would be a very different place.

She turned AskMe into Metafilter's biggest revenue provider and then kept it going. It didn't just magically take off overnight.

It's good to learn and be aware of what is needed to keep a business going through lean times. Keeping months of salaries in the bank when possible, etc. But hiring the right people and giving them free rein so they can turn your coal into a diamond is just as important a lesson to learn as a business owner or manager. In those early years, pb and jessamyn and cortex took what Matt had created and was struggling to maintain, and ran with it to create a full-fledged community that was (at least for a while,) self-sustaining financially.
posted by zarq at 6:39 AM on May 4, 2016 [49 favorites]


zarq's basically got it. That article was somewhat painful to read since it (understandably) glosses over some of the internal struggles that had been going on at the time and went on maybe a lot longer than they needed to. Founder's Syndrome is a real thing and I'm so happy that mathowie was able to work things into a better place for himself and the site as well.

It's been really interesting going from a single-owner small scale organization to a single-owner organization obsessed with scalability (the Archive) and seeing some of the same "This is what happens when all large and small decisions have a single point of yes/no thumbs up/down reckoning that sits with a single person." issues that I think affect a lot of start-up culture.

Most important I think is the stress that can really plague people when they feel this level of pressure and wind up with some other stressor (mathowie's health, sudden money issues). It feels weird to say it but having that Google dip was a useful wakeup call to some of the unsustainable things that were going on here that had to change. Making the community a little more supported through fundraising (which only happened when I left and could have maybe helped before) was a huge shot in the arm here and cortex's capable and much more cautious (as well as communicative) leadership has been a wonderful thing for MetaFilter and I can only hope with the recent changes that really continues.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:29 AM on May 4, 2016 [99 favorites]


I'm sorry for the off-topic rant. That site makes me fume.

Preach, Brother Rhomboid!

The longer I use this modern web, the more that books (e or real) sans all the cruft appeal. Nice to be able to read the thing you want to read without dodging advertising or mailing list signup swoopy shit.

Although I did have a flashback moment recently with an old Leigh Brackett paperback that had an advertisement for Kent Golden Lights cigarettes in the middle. I'd forgotten they used to do that.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:32 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thank you jessamyn for your insight. It adds to the article and adds to my understanding and appreciation of the site itself.
posted by AugustWest at 7:36 AM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


It didn't just magically take off overnight.

jessamyn deserves a ton of credit for helping AskMe be the kind of subsite it is, and I don't think that can be overstated. There's a lot of thoughtful culture-building in how it came together over the first few years that wouldn't have been strictly necessary for it to be baseline useful as a Q&A site, but Ask is considered by a lot of folks out there to be a good deal more than baseline useful for a lot of stuff, and there's good reasons for that that come down in significant part to her having good judgement and vision for the site.

At the same time, building a good site doesn't mean revenue shows up. The unsettling reality of Adsense being the big revenue driver for the site is that the income did take off more or less by magic. And kept doing so, building and building. Not because AskMe was getting better and better, but because the ad economy was its own magical force of nature. And then the magic switched polarity.

It's been true for feast and famine alike: we got very lucky to end up with good google ranking placement at the same time that the ad market was making a moon shot. Lots of sites with far shittier content also did proportionally well, and when things turned down lots of sites that also had good content felt the same crunch. (Our extra-special "put in the bad pile" crunch is, as Matt noted, just a second helping of shit luck in what was already a declining ad economy.)

The good news is that as a result of the ad economy shrinking, the share of our revenue that depends on Adsense is smaller than it once was and the site's income is somewhat more diversified. And in the mean time, our Adsense revenue itself has been a lot steadier at this new much-lower-than-peak level than it was at any point during that great big mountain of boom-and-bust.

And I can't emphasize enough how much of a difference the spontaneous sustained financial support of a broad swath of members and readers has made in stabilizing and buffering our financial situation. Building savings up was my personal top priority once the shit had well and truly hit the fan and the fact that we were capital-b Broke was clear, and we were able to start doing that after the big cutbacks in 2014 (rather than ride the thinnest of margins and hope nothing tanked further) thanks to the huge generosity of the MetaFilter community.

Like jessamyn just said: having to cut back is hard but it's also useful in some ways in forcing you to reexamine your assumptions and what's wanted vs. needed, what's nice vs. necessary. It's been a weird last few years on the site and stressful in a lot of ways for the team, as we've figured out what can go and what can't and what the breaking points are, and this last year for me has been a whole new level of keen awareness of that tough balance between livability and cautious parsimony.

I'm more than pleased things are going reasonably well at this point, but I'm also happy that they're doing so partly on the strength of some conservative resetting of financial expectations for the site, however hard the process of getting there was. Because the ad magic angle doesn't go away and so it never stops being an unsettling part of the whole deal, but saying "well, things are steady so I think we'll be okay" is a better place to be than "well, as long as things keep going up..."
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:52 AM on May 4, 2016 [50 favorites]


I CAN'T FUCKING STAND MEDIUM.COM. Literally everything about that site makes me want to stab someone.

When you organize your mob, let me know. I'll bring my own torch and pitchfork.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:18 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Okay, I know this has nothing to do with the content of the article but

i wish people would stop doing this.
posted by nadawi at 8:30 AM on May 4, 2016 [18 favorites]


Those people go in the same circle of hell as the "I haven't actually read the article/thread, but" people.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:40 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: a whole new level of keen awareness of that tough balance between livability and cautious parsimony.
posted by Melismata at 8:56 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you have the audacity to name your site medium.com, you better believe people are going to discuss the means by which the message is communicated.
posted by zamboni at 9:03 AM on May 4, 2016 [37 favorites]


Revenue went up by a bit after I left and they’ve stockpiled that cash. They’re only spending money on salaries. 90% of the cost of running the site is salaries, but those are fixed. It’s been stable. They have six months in the bank now, which is incredible.

This is very good to know. Thanks for posting the article, and thanks to jessamyn and cortex for in-thread clarifications (as well as for everything else!).
posted by languagehat at 9:10 AM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Okay, I know this has nothing to do with the content of the article but

i wish people would stop doing this.


You know that response doesn't have anything to do with the content of the article either, right? Luckily it's metatalk so it's okay, which luckily means the earlier thing is too.
posted by phearlez at 9:13 AM on May 4, 2016 [27 favorites]


You know that response doesn't have anything to do with the content of the article either, right?

I wish people would stop doing this.
posted by Krom Tatman at 9:26 AM on May 4, 2016 [17 favorites]


MetaFilter: I wish people would stop doing this. (Also, this <---- )
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2016 [29 favorites]


Working for a nonprofit, that was always the fear - that the money would run out all of a sudden

Just a note, that's a characteristic of a poorly run business of any stripe, not a characteristic of a nonprofit. A cash reserve is good financial practice in both worlds, and making budget should never be in serious question.
posted by Miko at 9:52 AM on May 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


I wish people would stop doing this.

I wish people would stop stopping people doing doing this.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:44 AM on May 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


I wish people would stop stopping people doing doing this.

This.
posted by Kabanos at 10:45 AM on May 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


Accidentally Put In The Bad Pile

I smell new t-shirts! And limited edition crested and embroidered leather jackets!

If you have the audacity to name your site medium.com, you better believe people are going to discuss the means by which the message is communicated.


No, it means it's neither rare nor well done. Hi-yohhh!
Apologies and thanks to Ernie Kovacs.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:49 AM on May 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


"You were accidentally put in the bad pile.”

That was no accident.
posted by Paphnuty at 10:55 AM on May 4, 2016 [27 favorites]


*nods at Paphnuty, nods at cage, nods at Paphnuty*
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:57 AM on May 4, 2016 [17 favorites]


The best stunt sockpuppets are the ones that are judiciously used. George Lucas, of course, and nice work by Papnuty here.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:14 AM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks for filling in the blanks Jessamyn and Cortex. I talked more about the development of subsites and everyone's roles in them, walked through the whole history of the site from inception, but I think it probably bogged down the final piece in too much inside-baseball detail and was cut. I was a little surprised to see the draft of this article start at basically 2005 and go forward, when we talked about other stuff before, but you've both covered lots of it here.
posted by mathowie (retired) at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2016 [16 favorites]


Matt, since you propose it in the interview, what's keeping you from turning the ownership over to the staff, or working on an S-Corp/ESOP kind of deal?

My interaction with ESOPs suggests that they're really quite a good way to allow employee buy-in. I guess the one question would be valuation: I wouldn't necessarily think that Metafilter was a good investment right now, and so many of the staff might prudently decline to buy into an ESOP, but that might be a reason to make it a gift.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


PS- I totally recognize that this is none of my business. I'm just commenting on what seemed like a cool idea from the interview.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2016


it sounds like you guys worked through a whole pile of difficult stuff between you. thanks for doing that.
posted by andrewcooke at 12:12 PM on May 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


I've never heard of ESOPs used for this kind of thing, but I'll definitely look into it.
posted by mathowie (retired) at 1:06 PM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well, you mention you have good legal advice in your XOXO talk. But if it helps, check out A Conceptual Guide to Employee Ownership for Very Small Businesses and ESOPs in S Corporations.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:58 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Baby, I am the bad pile.

Also, a neat article, thanks. I love seeing behind the curtain.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 3:46 PM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I liked the article and really appreciated the input here from Jessamyn and cortex and Matt's followups. This place has been my online home for virtually my entire online life. So grateful for everything that Matt and the entire staff, both current and retired, but most especially Jessamyn, Cortex and pb, have done to make MetaFilter the great place that it is. Its good to hear that things are on a more even keel these days. But I'm sad that it took such a stressful toll on such good people. Glad that everyone sounds happier now. And I understand better why Matt isn't on the site very much anymore, but I really do miss you, Matt. Love to you all.
posted by marsha56 at 3:51 PM on May 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


As a side note, I don't think Metafilter was put in the bad pile by accident - Google made a deliberate push to downgrade "user-submitted content" across the web. No matter if those webpages are highly moderated or curated. The narrow slice of web we are able to find easily nowadays has shifted from the weird, wonderful and personal to apps, answers and corporations.
posted by lubujackson at 3:51 PM on May 4, 2016 [41 favorites]


Oh sorry we meant "DO be evil" sorry sorry our "bad" muhawhawhaw!
--Google
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:45 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


It kills me that Matt was miserable moderating for so many years :( Not totally surprising because the job is taxing but still.

Mods, take care of each other.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:47 PM on May 4, 2016 [17 favorites]


How am I just finding out now that mathowie majored in soil science???? I have a GIANT MAP of the soils of Illinois on my wall because WHAT IS MORE INTERESTING THAN DIRT?
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:58 PM on May 4, 2016 [49 favorites]


Thank you mods and metafilterians for keeping this place going. I'm mostly a stand quietly, curse-or-cheer-under-my-breath kind of member, but I'd be lost without you all. And it's time to fork over some dough to drive the pistons: which way of contributing takes the fewest fees and puts the most money in the Mefi bank account?
posted by firstdrop at 5:12 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The main hit in contributions is the per-transaction fee, which is comparable between PayPal and Stripe so either works fine. If it's a one time thing, that's all there is to it; hit the funding page and there you go.

If you want to do a recurring contribution and it's a fairly small amount and you're wanting to maximize the amount that comes through vs. fees, doing a quarterly or yearly instead of a monthly will make a little bit of a difference in stretching the dollar, though basically whatever is most convenient for you is what you should go with.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:21 PM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hot damn, everyone had nice chairs! That gave me the warm fuzzies. Really. This place has been so great for so long, hearing some of the inside baseball from the past makes me love it all the more. My profile does not say so but I help fund metafilter via my sweet lady feistycakes. I highly recommend it. Funding the site I mean. These people work hard keeping the site groovy, help give them nice chairs. Yeah!
posted by vrakatar at 5:47 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Slack! 25% less meetings! Except of course you have meetings in lLack channels that are spun up faster than you can say 'we should have a meeting'

I hear Drupal 8 is where the cool kids are going these days.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:23 PM on May 4, 2016


I think this article pulls out some of the really good meta-points Matt made.

I still have a nice chair, those things last forever
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:55 PM on May 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


The main hit in contributions is the per-transaction fee, which is comparable between PayPal and Stripe so either works fine. If it's a one time thing, that's all there is to it; hit the funding page and there you go.

If you want to do a recurring contribution and it's a fairly small amount and you're wanting to maximize the amount that comes through vs. fees, doing a quarterly or yearly instead of a monthly will make a little bit of a difference in stretching the dollar, though basically whatever is most convenient for you is what you should go with.


That's good to know! Maybe I'll switch over to a quarterly donation rather than a monthly. I hadn't really thought much about the transaction fees since I've only used Paypal to give money, not receive it.

Also, it's interesting that Paypal, Stripe, and Amazon Pay all seem to have a baseline 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee. I wonder if there's a particular reason for that or if they all just decided not to bother underbidding each other and try to win over customers with other features.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:02 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed reading this. Matt, you show a thoughtfulness and humility that is admirable. I appreciate you sharing your experiences because although I will never own a website, I do have my own personal finance concerns, and it was helpful to think about getting the right advice and being assertive about asking for help and intervention.
posted by latkes at 9:12 PM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


This article again points to how problematically powerful Google is. I mean, they should be broken up really. How is it that they are the most important players in search. And in email. And they have an international taxi business. And they are launching the self driving car industry? And they can practically destroy a thriving web community in a single day?

Sigh, I miss anti-trust law enforcement.
posted by latkes at 9:15 PM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


What precisely would breaking up Google accomplish? It's not like they somehow use the power of self-driving cars to take out competitors to AdSense.

If you run a business that is overwhelmingly reliant on a single client, I don't think you have much room to complain when that client acts capriciously. You made that your business model. I think everyone involved agrees that that was the actual problem, not Google.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:34 PM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah if you have ever sat in on a big Google meeting, eventually someone will say, "I have an idea how our disparate service and products could work together to—"

"Shut up!" everyone shouts. "We're not interested in that shit. Orthogonal projects only!"
posted by nom de poop at 3:02 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Is it possible to add an "Other Amount" option for the quarterly Stripe payments? Paypal (which lets you specify a custom amount) only allows monthly or one-off, and I want to switch to quarterly to save on the transaction fees.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:21 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


The narrow slice of web we are able to find easily nowadays has shifted from the weird, wonderful and personal to apps, answers and corporations.

I curse them every day for that. Google search is now fairly useless, when compared to what it once was.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:56 AM on May 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

It’s weird that there’s a time where we envisioned MetaFilter would run like Reddit, up and down votes ...
Please tell me this was a 'what are we doing for April Fools?' time!
posted by dg at 5:26 AM on May 5, 2016


Paypal (which lets you specify a custom amount) only allows monthly or one-off, and I want to switch to quarterly to save on the transaction fees.

Ditto!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:03 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


It’s weird that there’s a time where we envisioned MetaFilter would run like Reddit, up and down votes ...

One of the many pleasing aspects of MetaFilter is that it is not gamified, in an online world where many other things are in some way.

There are a few little elements which one can personally/quietly interpret as being quantitatively gamified, such as the continual seven day leaderboard of the Popular Favorites page, or how many favorites you have, or whether you got mentioned on the month's podcast.

But even these are muted; people favorite comments for different reasons e.g. bookmarks, solidarity, and there's no long-term leaderboard. There's no cash prizes. There's no up or down voting, or Stack Overflow-like gaining of access/control privileges, and comments can only appear in their written order, not by some gaming of "popularity". You (admittedly perhaps regretfully) do not win a giant wheel of cheese for your post being mentioned in the monthly podcast*. There's not even badges, unless you are an active or retired mod, and the only prizes are small ones for the occasional "best of the week" contest; even these are conducted in a positive, as opposed to aggressively competing, manner.

Ergo, MetaFilter is not gamified, and the (many) anti-community practices which gamification can allow, either deliberately or accidentally, can't happen here. That is so, so good. And now I've written this, I really must check out how many times my latest tweet about Donald Trump has been retweeted.

* I may have been awake at 4am this morning, trying to work out how many wheels of cheese six months reserves of MetaFilter funds would possibly buy. If the plug was ever pulled for non-financial reasons, then one of those for each MeFite, plus a nice cheque for each current and alumni mod, could be a splendid way to go.
posted by Wordshore at 7:27 AM on May 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not gamified other than favorites, that is.

Also, it's interesting that Paypal, Stripe, and Amazon Pay all seem to have a baseline 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee. I wonder if there's a particular reason for that or if they all just decided not to bother underbidding each other and try to win over customers with other features.

There's a pretty firm lower bound on exchange cost for credit cards. My suspicion is that Paypal/Stripe/etc all determined that for most lowerish-volume customers that comprise their target market there wasn't any gain in losing a 0.1% margin on competition. People who are super focused on those numbers will go more direct clearinghouse/Authorize.net methods so are not their customers anyway. They're better served providing slick & easy as a differentiator.
posted by phearlez at 7:45 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not gamified other than favorites, that is.

I appreciate the effort you did not put into reading that comment
posted by beerperson at 8:02 AM on May 5, 2016 [27 favorites]


Is it possible to add an "Other Amount" option for the quarterly Stripe payments?

We can't do a freeform field for Stripe quarterlies - but we can manually set up a custom amount for you, just drop us a note at the contact form.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:04 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I welcome the resumption of The Great Favorites Argument of yesteryear. We'll definitely come to a consensus THIS time.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:07 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


The comment sandwiches the weak "well I guess favorites kinda" with the absolute phrase is not gamified. I make no apologies for taking the thesis and conclusion at face value while largely discounting weasling in the middle.
posted by phearlez at 8:28 AM on May 5, 2016


Favourites? Pah! All the cool kids are campaigning for VOTEs (#1 quidnunc kid). Well ... I say "cool kids", but some people say "tiresome fuckwit". Quite a lot of people say that, now I think of it. Pretty much everyone, to be honest. Anyway ... ah, yeah. I got nothin'. Sorry.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:18 AM on May 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


It’s weird that there’s a time where we envisioned MetaFilter would run like Reddit, up and down votes ...

The wiggly parts of that quote are "a time" and "we", is the main thing. I know the idea of some kind of users-as-filter up/down model is something solo moderator Matt contemplated in at least one or two early MetaTalk discussions when the site was still taking form—it's there if you want to go sifting through the archives, but I can't offer much direction offhand—but it never came into being. And the notion of some automated downvote- or flag-based robomoderation has been floated by one user or another over the years since, but it's been shot down every time because, nope.

When we were dealing with the big downturn, Matt cycled through a lot of worst-case-scenario ideas as what ifs, and honestly a lot of them weren't good ideas but they weren't intended as good exactly so much as best-of-the-worst contingencies if it all went completely to shit. But as much as shit got bad by early 2012 it has thankfully never got nearly that bad, like "stripped down to one person managing the whole site again" bad where something far more extreme like automated vs. human moderation could be a necessity.

I have spent some time imagining worst case scenarios myself, especially in the last year, because the future is the future and good fortune or bad it will keep coming our way. And gaming out these various and varying extreme scenarios and their possible solutions and stopbacks and failovers is part of that, and when you go far enough down the bad outcome road you have to think about fairly radical, best-of-the-worst approaches. But we're not there and that's not where I'm putting the bulk of my energy planning for.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:27 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


The comment sandwiches the weak "well I guess favorites kinda" with the absolute phrase is not gamified. I make no apologies for taking the thesis and conclusion at face value while largely discounting weasling in the middle.

-1 [downvoted]
posted by Wordshore at 9:32 AM on May 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yeah phearlez, "weaseling" is a spectacularly uncharitable way of characterizing Wordshore's thoughtful and nuanced comment. Why would you ever feel the need to go there?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:53 AM on May 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


Taking gamification as an all-or-nothing deal where any hint of incentivization is equivalent to the worst excesses of same seems kinda silly, yeah.

Replumbing the depths of favorites yet again at this late date does, too; probably the best basic argument for how much MetaFilter has generally avoided knee-jerk gamification of the site systems is that, ten years on, favorites is still the go-to point of argumentation there rather than one instance lost and forgotten amidst a long line of successive Skinnerian additions to the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:58 AM on May 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I prefer the Tamzarianian additions, but I recognize that I'm in the minority there.
posted by Etrigan at 10:03 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


(And it has been literally very nearly ten years; favorites and flags were launched May 10, 2006. If you want to (re-)read discussion at the time about the new features, you might skim through the May, 2006 MetaTalk archives.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:03 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Totally going to launch a MeTa Birthday Thread for the Favorites.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:10 AM on May 5, 2016 [27 favorites]


> the future is the future and good fortune or bad it will keep coming our way.

I have heard that if enough people vote #1 quidnunc kid, it will stop coming our way, which is why I continue to vote #1 quidnunc kid. Goddamn future.
posted by languagehat at 10:40 AM on May 5, 2016 [13 favorites]


MetaFilter: Best-of-the-Worst
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:43 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


How am I just finding out now that mathowie majored in soil science????

I suspect it's because I work around pedologists and also for the NRCS for awhile, but this fact about Matt has always stuck in my head as the #1 thing I know about him! . . . So when I was reading The Martian and got to the part where Mark Watney started fussing with making soil, my vision of him became Matt Haughey, including his voice.

This was really disconcerting when the movie posters with Matt Damon came out.
posted by barchan at 10:52 AM on May 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Totally going to launch a MeTa Birthday Thread for the Favorites.

I bet that post will get a lot of "bookmarks."
posted by chococat at 11:00 AM on May 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


This was really disconcerting when the movie posters with Matt Damon came out.

Clearly they should have gone with Zachary Quinto.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:01 AM on May 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Man, imagine if they'd cast Zachary Quinto as Mark Watney.
posted by Phire at 11:01 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


GOD DAMMIT CORTEX
posted by Phire at 11:01 AM on May 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Wow, through Metafilter science we can pinpoint the exact twelve-month period people were really into Sylar.
posted by selfnoise at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Man, imagine if they'd cast Zachary Quinto as Mark Watney.

I prefer imagining they'd cast Donald Glover.
posted by phearlez at 11:30 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I prefer imagining that Donald Glover was too busy with Spiderman.
posted by Etrigan at 11:34 AM on May 5, 2016


I dunno, I liked Glover's Rich Purnell.
posted by Phire at 12:02 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


OK, Danny Glover.
posted by rhizome at 1:42 PM on May 5, 2016


He's getting too old for that shit.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:47 PM on May 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


Corey Glover!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:47 PM on May 5, 2016


Super Grover.
posted by Mchelly at 1:55 PM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]




Wordshore: "There's not even badges, unless you are an active or retired mod,"

And that Stan Chin guy.
posted by Mitheral at 7:11 PM on May 5, 2016


Totally going to launch a MeTa Birthday Thread for the Favorites.

Please do this!

I've come to enjoy how random favorites seem to be. Comments that to me are the epitome of insightful and interesting will get zero or one, while others that strike me as duds rack up dozens. The distribution of favorites communicates something, but damned if I can figure out what.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:32 PM on May 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Pop culture references and dirty jokes are perennial favorites for favoriting.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:04 PM on May 5, 2016


Yeah, wrong side of the tracks, a drifter who makes his own rules; he's just a Bad Pile kind of guy, baby.
posted by Segundus at 3:59 AM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pop culture references and dirty jokes are perennial favorites for favoriting.

Eight-year olds, Dude.
posted by beerperson at 4:49 AM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Let's keep our powder dry for the favorites birthday thread, folks!
posted by Chrysostom at 6:40 AM on May 6, 2016


Pop culture references and dirty jokes are perennial favorites for favoriting.

Winter is cumming.
posted by Kabanos at 7:35 AM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


WHAT IS MORE INTERESTING THAN DIRT?

Rocks.

One of my fantasies is to have the whole 7.5 minute series of Texas topo maps laminated into the floor of a gymnasium-sized room. A good number of these were worked over & redone as geologic surveys overlaying the topographic contours by UT geology majors back in the 70's & 80's & I love to travel by map. "Ohh, an Ordovician Ellenburger outcrop!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:50 AM on May 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Winter is cumming.

20 pieces of eight, same as in Old Town on Tatooine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:19 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Eight-year olds, Dude.

Jesus.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:58 PM on May 6, 2016


When I was a young adult, I had the forest service maps for the Carson, Santa Fe, and Lincoln National Forests on my wall. And the National Wilderness Area trail maps for the wilderness areas in each. Because, yeah, I love maps and I love the mountains and I could (and did, and still do) spend hours poring over these kinds of maps of my favorite places.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:01 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Behind the scenes at Metafilter

Is it wrong that I wish this was done "Behind The Music," style and that my ravaged face was one of the interviewees during the 'behind the scenes, storm clouds were brewing..." segment?
posted by jonmc at 7:34 PM on May 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Nights young.

I think it would be cool if Matt put a camera on his review window, then drive in concentric circles 10 times (donuts?) in a parking lot.

The soundtrack to that would awesome.
My pick would be 'September in the rain' by Dinah Washington.
posted by clavdivs at 11:45 PM on May 6, 2016


rear-view window?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:40 AM on May 7, 2016


It's the window at the opposite end of a car from the front-view window.
posted by dg at 3:23 PM on May 7, 2016


Is it the same as the "review window," or is that at the other end from a froview window?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:03 PM on May 7, 2016


Going back to the stripe/paypal thing, I set up a recurring payment with my bank's bill payment service. I'm pretty sure they mail a paper check every month to a PO box somewhere in Oregon. Am I the only one who does this? Would it be easier for you if I just used stripe or paypal instead?
posted by double block and bleed at 11:11 PM on May 7, 2016


Direct electronic payment is certainly a little simpler—no extra step for us—though as always it's basically whatever works best for you. We do get a handful of checks each month so it's definitely not just you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:40 AM on May 8, 2016


Winter is cumming.

That's why the ground is white.
posted by nubs at 6:24 PM on May 8, 2016


Jesus.

You said it, mang.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:45 PM on May 9, 2016


Can someone please write a song for MeFi Music called "You Were Accidentally Put in the Bad Pile"?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:17 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


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