Is the MetaFilter code available for public use? February 25, 2018 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to use the MetaFilter code for your own site a la SportsFilter.com? I had an idea for a specialized weblog in another language and the MetaFilter format would be a perfect fit.
posted by Clementines4ever to MetaFilter-Related at 2:02 PM (32 comments total)

Nah, we don't make the source code available. It's a pretty large and idiosyncratic codebase, so it'd be hard to adapt to other projects, and we haven't had the motivation or resources to really scrub and neaten and harden it as a public-facing codebase besides. In a perfect world I could see making it open source but it's not something where the specific functionality of MetaFilter on the code side is unique enough to really put that in demand vs. the various forum/bbs/cms packages that already exist.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:04 PM on February 25, 2018


cortex™
posted by Fizz at 3:14 PM on February 25, 2018


Plus...isn't it still ColdFusion?
posted by uosuaq at 3:22 PM on February 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


Huh - weird. Earlier was looking at the talk/discussion page for the MetaFilter page in Wikipedia and in there is Request for update to info on MetaFilter-like software.
posted by Wordshore at 4:58 PM on February 25, 2018


This question gets asked every couple of years.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:21 PM on February 25, 2018


*Every* question gets asked again every couple of years.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:33 PM on February 25, 2018 [22 favorites]


Is the site code all hand-built, passed down from when the site launched almost 20 years ago? I only joined a few years ago, so I think I took for granted that this site predated Wordpress. I think in my mind I was imagining that it was some modified prepackaged CMS.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:37 PM on February 25, 2018


Slashdot code is available.
posted by theora55 at 8:43 PM on February 25, 2018


*Every* question gets asked again every couple of years.

That's how fast the monkeys work now.
posted by AFABulous at 11:00 PM on February 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Basically, "what cortex said", but I'll add: Even were it available, you wouldn't want to use the MetaFilter codebase as a starting point. It's good at being MetaFilter, but there's 19 years of history and decisions baked in to what is now there, and little-no thought given to the idea of "generic MetaFilter-like site": it would be a pretty large undertaking to go from "very idiosyncratic" to "general-use".

Further to that, the core format is very easily reproducible in a web framework like Django or Rails that would let you use not-ColdFusion as well as a saner templating language.

If, OTOH, you have questions about how MetaFilter does something, I can say with some experience that asking, either via the contact form, MeMail or on MetaTalk, is going to get you a better answer than having the code in your hands will.
posted by frimble (staff) at 12:45 AM on February 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


If you want something similar to Metafilter, then you could try looking at the lobste.rs codebase. It’s available on github & is implemented in ruby IIRC.
posted by pharm at 2:07 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is the site code all hand-built, passed down from when the site launched almost 20 years ago?

Yep. You can follow the code base (and, to frimble's frequent raised eyebrows, db schema) all the way back to mathowie being bored in the late 90s and doing some side hacking (not to be confused with side-talking). It's a patchwork of rewrites and additions and cleanups and modifications and so on, but it's never gotten close to a throw-out-and-start-over situation and we've never incorporated a standalone infrastructure to replace the guts.

Which, I wouldn't exactly recommend this approach because it means you're the only people who know what your software is doing and can't really put in for support from corporate, but there was a notable upside there for a while in the 2000s where folks running modified versions of major CMS products had a lot more overhead in their code and more difficulty making changes than we did. I was always surprised when a big-name site creaked under load or mentioned how doing x/y/z functionality thing just wasn't possible, because on our end we would just (ask pb to) do it, and then it was done.

These days hosting has gotten so much better that, while the CMSes themselves have even more overhead than they used to, an inexpensive server solution can keep up just fine for reasonable level of traffic. MetaFilter with it's basically-just-text approach still does pretty well in response time relatively speaking, though, partly because we haven't ladled a pile of ads and several hundred third-party javascript calls onto every page.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:13 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


*Every* question gets asked again every couple of years.
posted by Chrysostom


all of this has happened before
and all of this will happen again
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:19 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


If I had more caffeine in my system I'd write a long comment about the underappreciated value of reinforcing community norms through ongoing repetition.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:30 AM on February 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Instead I'll make a time is a flat circle joke.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:30 AM on February 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Time is a flat circle.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:31 AM on February 26, 2018 [16 favorites]


But... but... I thought it was a cube!
posted by languagehat at 7:50 AM on February 26, 2018 [15 favorites]


cortex: "all the way back to mathowie being bored in the late 90s and doing some side hacking"

♪ Sidehackin' is the thing to do, and it doesn't hurt to have a low IQ ♪
posted by Chrysostom at 8:12 AM on February 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


I thought it was a cube!

Drawn by Alex Chiu.
posted by k5.user at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2018


Dang it! You beat me to the sidehacking joke.

As a total non web person, I’m pretty impressed that the site code is its own thing! Thanks for the explanation, cortex.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:43 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: the underappreciated value of reinforcing community norms through ongoing repetition.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:39 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


My comment above got truncated because I was on mobile and somehow managed to hit "post comment."

So I was going to add that since it does come up every couple of years, perhaps it is a question that should be added to the FAQ (I looked). Or maybe the wiki (didn't look).

A long time ago I thought it would be interesting to fire up an instance of metafilter and let it go without moderation. Let it become a free-for-all where anything was possible. Self-links? Sure. Personal attacks? Of course! Double-posts? Why not? This would then become an example of why you need moderation, but then I realized this would create a site that was pure garbage, and would be like the dark and shadowy place in the Lion King where no one wanted to go.

I do think if you ever decided to modernize the codebase it'd be an interesting idea to open source the base code.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:38 AM on February 26, 2018


"Alas, how strong a family likeness runs through blind and persecuting humanity in all Dimensions! Points, Lines, Squares, Cubes, Extra-Cubes — "

-'Flatland', Edwin Abbott Abbott.

Yes, I have a parrot on my shoulder.
posted by clavdivs at 12:17 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


So I was going to add that since it does come up every couple of years, perhaps it is a question that should be added to the FAQ (I looked)

Yeah, huh, I actually thought we had put something on there a while back. Will see about adding a new entry about it, good call.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:29 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


There is a page on Mefi clones on the wiki, with some references to software and its availability.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:38 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is there any documentation of how the moderators' back end works? Just detailed text description, or, in my dream world, a video chat/interview with one or two moderators going through how they do what they do with screen shot video showing the actual interface? I'd guess that that functionality is a key part of what makes Metafilter "go" and what makes the pace and warmth and clarity of the site possible.

If someone wanted to make a Metafilter clone, really, then the thousand UI decisions that went into that giant (probably) set of key functionality would be super important, I'd think.
posted by amtho at 4:00 AM on February 27, 2018


Metafilter channels Usenet before Eternal September. Lots of signal, little noise. Good grammar. Thoughfulness. Admittedly a bit dogmatic on certain hot-button issues. The only highly-trafficked place I can think of on the modern Internet that feels even semi-similar is Hacker News, and even there the upvote system controls what is seen and what is hidden, leading to less linear conversation.

Quite something that it's still around, and it's interesting to see how we are moving toward an NPR-type user-supported funding model here as the modern ad-supported Web continues boldly into its loud, stupid Facebook-dominated future.

Are there any other quiet, linear places left on the modern Web?
posted by killdevil at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


A long time ago I thought it would be interesting to fire up an instance of metafilter and let it go without moderation. Let it become a free-for-all where anything was possible. Self-links? Sure. Personal attacks? Of course! Double-posts? Why not? This would then become an example of why you need moderation, but then I realized this would create a site that was pure garbage, and would be like the dark and shadowy place in the Lion King where no one wanted to go.

Isn't that just Reddit?
posted by radwolf76 at 9:16 AM on February 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Are there any other quiet, linear places left on the modern Web?

Seconded.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:02 AM on February 27, 2018


This is really funny, I had a dream a few nights ago (before seeing this thread) that Cortex had open-sourced the site and that all these Mefi lookalikes were popping up.
posted by third word on a random page at 7:17 PM on February 27, 2018


Oh, killdevil, I want to heavily contest comparing Hacker News with Metafilter. "[E]ven there" implies that it's at least sort of worthwhile, but HN is basically "don't read the comments" territory these days. The laugh-out-loud, "oh, we're done here" moment came a few weeks ago when someone posted a Medium article, A Guide to Hacker News for People Who Aren't Men, and by the time I finished the article (which had been like #2 on the front page) and went (hating myself all the way) to read the comments, the link was flagged into oblivion. I was reading something there the other day about a professor who was talking about becoming dramatically overcommitted/overworked and how she was trying to overcome burnout, something of relevance to many people in my line of work, and the comments were all "ugh women are the worst, always making it all about them" because, like, she made one remark to married women generally being stuck with housework.

It's not the linearity of conversation there that's the problem. They may have the clean text interface, but boy howdy do they not have a community of grown-ups like we do here.
posted by sldownard at 12:18 AM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm one of the founders of SportsFilter. You don't want to start a new project on the MetaFilter codebase.

if it were up to me I'd start from scratch with Laravel or similar framework.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:36 PM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


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