The etiquette of thread poaching? March 7, 2018 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Question about thread poaching to external sites. I totally get that everything on MeFi is publicly accessible to anyone and everyone for ever and always. But, I was somewhat annoyed that one of my questions was made into an article on LifeHacker. They did credit it to MeFi, but it still seemed like a cheap thing for them to do (and presumably make money off of). Or at the least, poor netiquette? (Do people even say that anymore?) If I'm being a grumpy old dinosaur, do let me know. Just wondering if there's a precedent for this, and to hear others thoughts on the matter.
posted by stillmoving to Etiquette/Policy at 11:28 AM (40 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Yeah, this happens sometimes, and it's kind of annoying in a way, but as long as they're crediting/linking and not doing it allll the time, it's basically one of those things. Another example from last fall.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:31 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


I actually discovered Metafilter through Lifehacker back when they did the AskMetafilter round-up. They stopped doing it regularly around 2008-2009 it looks like, but here are the old posts.
posted by Mouse Army at 11:46 AM on March 7 [9 favorites]


Here is the Lifehacker post, I think: Here's a Playlist of Songs You Know But You Can’t Name

I actually discovered Metafilter through Lifehacker back when they did the AskMetafilter round-up.

same! I get where you're coming from but with respect to Lifehacker specifically, they always credit and link and seem to have a great deal of affection for this site, and of course we have no way of knowing numbers but I think they've engaged many folks with MetaFilter.
posted by lalex at 11:56 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


This instance seems perfectly fine and in the spirit of the old style free internet.
posted by Mitheral at 12:03 PM on March 7 [11 favorites]


Lifehacker did that with my mental health/self-care gaming post. I wasn't too bothered by it. I took it as a compliment. And if it helps others in some way, then whatever.
posted by Fizz at 12:05 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Have had a few things from MetaFilter "wander off" into other parts of the web, though no-one has, as far as I know, made or tried to make* bags of money off it. Got a few enquiries from the US movie industry about that cheese heist thing, one of them serious and detailed, but they came to nothing (which was a bit sad as I liked the idea/vision of Bridges, Goodman and Buscemi reuniting for another outing). If someone did make a bundle of money off my content on here, I'd politely but persistently ask they throw a bag of money in the direction of MetaFilter rather than me (preferring to keep my taxes and accountancy relatively simple, and Cortex can deal with the hassle instead).

(*Unlike outside of MetaFilter, with a tourist organisation in Thailand. Who lifted one of my pictures of a beach in Berneray in the Outer Hebrides from the community website I set up and ran, and used it in their promotional materials as a beach there. I received astonishingly unpleasant and threatening replies to my polite enquiries, and effectively can't enter Thailand now. Didn't want to visit there anyway, so no loss. Thieving fuckers.)
posted by Wordshore at 12:32 PM on March 7 [24 favorites]


It might seem weird to you that something you wrote here gets wide exposure, because you see Metafilter as just "a way to talk to friends and nice strangers on the Internet", but the site is a real, revenue-generating Internet content business. You have to realize that, although you paid your $5, you're still "the product," and people linking to your posts on other websites drives traffic back to Metafilter, generating revenue from advertising and new user fees and donations, which ultimately keeps the site running. If you have a real problem with people sharing your posts and comments, there's a copyright notice on every page that says "All posts copyright their original owners," which as far as I know hasn't really been interrogated from a legal standpoint yet.
posted by Small Dollar at 12:33 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Fair Use? The Lifehacker post is about the Metafilter thread—it’s not like the author just lifted the idea without attribution.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:45 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


I agree with Mitheral and lalex: if they're crediting the source, it's fine.

> It might seem weird to you that something you wrote here gets wide exposure, because you see Metafilter as just "a way to talk to friends and nice strangers on the Internet", but the site is a real, revenue-generating Internet content business. You have to realize that, although you paid your $5, you're still "the product," and people linking to your posts on other websites drives traffic back to Metafilter, generating revenue from advertising and new user fees and donations, which ultimately keeps the site running. If you have a real problem with people sharing your posts and comments, there's a copyright notice on every page that says "All posts copyright their original owners," which as far as I know hasn't really been interrogated from a legal standpoint yet.

Boy, what a hostile, nasty comment. Are you threatening to sue, or just offering that as a helpful option?
posted by languagehat at 12:59 PM on March 7 [28 favorites]


Yes, small dollar, I do realize they credited the thread, as mentioned up top. And totally agree that mental health and self-care stuff is great to share and MeFi should generally be a resource for good! Guess I just felt a bit squicky about them snapping the question up so quickly, so was curious to hear others' thoughts on the etiquette of this, as I don't do much internetting besides email, news, Mefi. So, completely happy to help increase the funding for this site, but felt funny that it'd be used to fund a different site I'm unfamiliar with.

Wordshore, what is the cheese heist thing?
posted by stillmoving at 1:00 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Wordshore, what is the cheese heist thing?

An AskMeFi question from the summer of 2016 that blew up and got out of hand. Ironically, the MetaTalk by Mo Nickels is far funnier so best to read that instead.

(The people involved in the IRL thing would have, for the most part, mapped nicely onto the usual Coen Brothers actors - two other people who know some of the IRL people have said this so, not just me. Bridges could have been me - I was the runner-up in a "Dude look-a-like" contest back in heavier set days. 'Andy' was scarily so similar to John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane you have no idea. Buscemi would have made a near-perfect 'Fred'. A bit of a stretch, but Clooney could have played 'Bob'. The script would have to diverge from real life a bit to give Jessamyn an actual role rather than just a reference, and she would - obviously - be played by Frances McDormand. There's your cast for a Coen Brothers movie.)

(In the extremely rare possibility that one of the Coen Brothers reads this comment, I would be extremely happy to sign the movie rights to you so long as you give Cortex a significant bag of money to keep MetaFilter going for the next decade.)
posted by Wordshore at 1:12 PM on March 7 [16 favorites]


For me, this is a good reminder not to post overly personal questions.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:32 PM on March 7 [8 favorites]


For me, this is a good reminder not to post overly personal questions.

Or to post something SOOO personal that it becomes useless for the general public and is therefore unlikely to be used on another site/article.
posted by Fizz at 3:12 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Who owns the copyright on MetaFilter content?
On the footer of every MetaFilter page is: © 1999-2016 MetaFilter Network Inc. All posts are © their original authors. What this means is that people own their own content. So if you wanted to publish a book of your own MetaFilter comments, you could. However if you wanted to publish a book of other people's MetaFilter comments you'd need to speak with those individual users; MetaFilter is not the owner of the copyright of that content. People have, however, granted MetaFilter the right to display their comments. MetaFilter will generally go after websites that are making wholesale reproductions of MetaFilter content, but limited content quoting is considered fair use and will be treated as such.

IANAL. Etiquette is different from legality, and because money and business is involved, this is really more of a legal question than an etiquette question. If you feel it's okay that the content that you created and you own is posted or used somewhere other than its original location, it's okay and legal, but if you feel it's not okay, you have the ability to seek recourse. MetaFilter the company will not mess with someone using your content if it considers that "fair use", but you can disagree. Uses like Lifehacker's align with the philosophical, legal, and, even if tacit, business strategy stances of MetaFilter the company, which may not be the same as yours. MetaFilter the company generally acts in ways that align with the interests of the members of MetaFilter the community, but in small potatoes situations like this, where it's more likely that you'd feel "weird" than "threatened" by the use and at least a few people might visit and send them some cash, it's more likely they'd have a blase attitude about it.

If you actually sued another site to prevent them from using your posts when MetaFilter the company believed that was a "fair use", it's likely the staff here would treat you as an annoyance at best, and also that you probably weren't the sort of person who "belonged" in MetaFilter the community in the first place. But that's an extreme hypothetical that would really depend on the facts of the case.
posted by Small Dollar at 4:00 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


This post gives me an idea for a comic that I need some lines for - WHA…WHA…WIBBLE.
posted by unliteral at 5:08 PM on March 7


It seems we have out grown cat scans, pancaks and beans,

;-(
posted by bjgeiger at 5:16 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]


If a non-member were to collect, say, a bunch of stories about illicit cheese, village fêtes, English food, and publish them as their own, wordshore could sue them, though in what jurisdiction I have no idea, and the overlords would likely provide assistance. Lifehacker is swiping ideas and quite a bit of substance, but is crediting the source, and is not using the actual words. I'm guessing Nick Douglas is a MeFite. It would seem rather rude not to be.
posted by theora55 at 5:52 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


"Here's a list of previously published (? There's probably a better music-specific word) songs that other people recommended" doesn't really seem to be violating any copyright issues, and "Here's a cool thing on a different website, and I'll add my own interpretation to it" seems like how the internet is supposed to work. (Related: I miss blogs.) If they had copied-and-pasted the thread and removed all attribution, I'd find that bad. With what actually happened, I think that's totally ok.
posted by lazuli at 7:10 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


I'm guessing Nick Douglas is a MeFite.

Bingo!
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:54 PM on March 7


If you actually sued another site to prevent them from using your posts when MetaFilter the company believed that was a "fair use", it's likely the staff here would treat you as an annoyance at best, and also that you probably weren't the sort of person who "belonged" in MetaFilter the community in the first place

I don't know if you're having a really shit day, pal, but maybe wind this up because you're getting really obnoxious.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:17 PM on March 7 [8 favorites]


I'm trying and failing to see how the Lifehacker post is different (in substance if not style) from all the fpps that get posted here every day.
posted by rtha at 9:12 PM on March 7 [19 favorites]


"poaching" is an interesting word to use here, and I don't think applies to anything which is available openly on the internet. Plagiarism possibly, but that's not the case here.
posted by hippybear at 11:12 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


A really long time ago I mentioned something similar about a site called "Splice Today" which seemed to be poaching content hand over fist from MetaFilter. I'd like to mention today that, to their credit, they stopped that shit pretty much right away and nowadays aren't the world's worst aggregator for news & opinion. I didn't follow this evolution at all so I have no idea whether the place is under new ownership, or just grew out of it.
posted by chavenet at 2:43 AM on March 8


Neatorama re-posts stuff I see here all the time - they also prominently attribute, which I imagine shoves a bit of traffic this way.

Also I’d like to buy small money a coffee beacuase I appreciate their insight but suspect they could apply that effort more effectively elsewhere and ... well I’m having a coffee and you know it’s good to take a break every now and then.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:47 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


If you actually sued another site to prevent them from using your posts when MetaFilter the company believed that was a "fair use", it's likely the staff here would treat you as an annoyance at best, and also that you probably weren't the sort of person who "belonged" in MetaFilter the community in the first place. But that's an extreme hypothetical that would really depend on the facts of the case.

In your two relatively obnoxious comments so far, I've seen the following statements:

"as far as I know"
"IANAL"
"it's more likely that they'll",
"it's likely the staff here" and
"but that's an extreme hypothetical"

You may want to strongly consider whether or not you know enough about the subject matter to be trying to educate or enlighten another user.
posted by notorious medium at 6:29 AM on March 8 [5 favorites]


it's likely the staff here would treat you as an annoyance at best, and also that you probably weren't the sort of person who "belonged" in MetaFilter the community in the first place.

Nah. I mean, we're all annoying in our own ways but the staff don't really get to choose who belongs, outside of a few carefully considered rules. That said, there is a pretty uneasy alliance between "You own your words but you've given us the right to reproduce them" that would make this sort of thing really difficult to pursue from basically any direction short of wholesale large scale content off-ripping.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:45 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]


You may want to strongly consider whether or not you know enough about the subject matter to be trying to educate or enlighten another user.

You inspired me to make this.
posted by solotoro at 6:52 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


What Jess said.

In practice, the way the various stuff that has come up here breaks down for me is:
- the web was built on sharing and linking and signal-boosting content
- but there's better and worse ways to do that
- Lifehacker does a totally reasonable job with it, so it's not something MeFi looks askance at
- we occasionally need to holler officially at folks doing an unreasonable or large-scale job of it
- but it can be hard to enforce beyond hollering, unfortunately
- and folks who want to pursue specific copyright claims against third parties basically do so of their independent choice and that's totally up to them and generally not going to be our business either way

So, this particular case? Fine with me. I do understand the grumpy twitch and ultimately at a personal level I think it'd be reasonable to drop Lifehacker a line if you personally were uncomfortable with them using your post as fodder (there are a couple times I can think of where that has come up with one site or another re: rehosting a very personal/touchy Ask, etc), but if it's just a concern about the etiquette of the thing I'd say shrug it off as something you're just prone to dislike but which is okay.

For me, if this was as bad as worries about content generation and reuse and sharing on the web got, I would throw a party because the web would be in much better shape and the Old Web would be much better represented than the megacorporate content algorithm and social media landscape we have now. Someone on Lifehacker making a post saying "I really liked _this thing here_ from MetaFilter, let me show it to you and elaborate" is far better than FB churning up links out of context and reframing it basically entirely inside their walled garden link economy, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:20 AM on March 8 [10 favorites]


Thank you for the input and the official thoughts of the mods. Going by some of the responses, I think I may have worded my initial query a bit strongly. I was actually just curious for others' thoughts and was surprised that my silly question would get snapped up for some website. I guess I mostly felt funny that he wouldn't, say, ping me on MeMail and say, hey, mind if I reuse this, but I'm not particularly fussed that he didn't. I think what he did with the playlist is fun and original. Again, I am glad for stuff to bring traffic to MeFi and didn't think I held any sort of copyright. I certainly didn't think they'd plagiarized or done anything especially wrong; nor was I considering taking legal action, as seems to have been suggested!

As I mentioned, I'm a dinosaur and really only use the internet for news, email, and MeFi--don't do Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Spotify/whatever--so I'm not very clued in on how people share and reblog and whatnot, so grateful for the input here.

BTW, rtha: I guess I'd say the difference between the LifeHacker post and an FPP here is that the FPP uses the source as a way of sharing with the community and opening up a dialogue about it, while Lifehacker seems more like "here's this thing I saw and I made this in response." But as cortex said, this is how the internet breathes, and much better to have this cooperation than a closed web.
posted by stillmoving at 12:04 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Oh and, p.s., Wordshore: I'd forgotten about that cheese question, and didn't realize it'd turned into such a massive to-do! Your ticket to Hollywood stardom and bankrolling MeFi are potentially just a click away!
posted by stillmoving at 12:07 PM on March 8


Crediting and legalities aside, I personally see a difference between the reuse of a question and the reuse of, say, an extensive post or comment.

While the question was yours, the answers weren't, so if the author were to ask permission, it would be implied that he would also need to ask permission from all the answerers - after all, the asker's contribution is simply coming up with the idea rather than the content.
posted by mosst at 12:23 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Also today! How to Volunteer Without Leaving Home

From this Ask: volunteering between keyboard and chair

Somebody at Lifehacker really likes you, Askme.
posted by notyou at 8:05 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


I have wiseassedly tweeted about it.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:41 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


Hiiiiii

I don't want to wade in too much, but stillmoving deserves a respectful response. So:

I'm very sorry to have annoyed you! I intended my post as an appreciation and as an added service. It took much longer than it seems, most of my workday, to build that Spotify playlist, choosing the most canonical or well-recorded version of 160 tracks, collected from three MeFi threads and a smattering of other sources. I believe that a good blog post either links to a thing, says why it's good, and gets out as fast as possible, or adds something of value that the author of the original post/thread/video/thing would appreciate. So for any and all ways that I failed to make something new that you'd appreciate, and failed to leave you satisfied with the level of credit given to you, I apologize.

As for starting a dialog, the Lifehacker readers wrote 190+ comments suggesting more songs, many of which I then added to the playlist. (And some people whined that everyone knows "In the Hall of the Mountain King," because some people are straight-up dicks.) It was a very similar experience to what you began on your MeFi thread. Which could be evidence for or against my post!

In any case, thank you so so much for your post! It was extremely fun and satisfying to read, to collect and listen to all these songs, to reminisce about where I'd heard them, to research the history of cartoon music, and to share that experience with thousands of people.
posted by NickDouglas at 5:00 PM on March 9 [40 favorites]


This particular topic is spreading across MetaFilter quicker than Norovirus on a cruise ship of British seniors, and is now on the blue.
posted by Wordshore at 11:34 AM on March 12


Got a few enquiries from the US movie industry about that cheese heist thing

You could likely pitch it to Ben Wheatley. The story of the Cheese and its heist strikes me more like an extended episode of Ideal. Mind you it could conceivably work as a Canadian movie as we do have a recent history of such things - 1, 2, 3.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:53 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


This particular topic is spreading across MetaFilter quicker than Norovirus on a cruise ship of British seniors, and is now on the blue.

I can't help but feel partially responsible.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:45 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


I could see the cheese heist story as a sharp but understated comedy-drama, along the lines of Detectorists. Get it written for radio!
posted by mippy at 7:17 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


NickDouglas, many thanks for the thoughtful reply. (And again, to be clear, I never meant anything about suing or lawsuits, not sure where that idea came from!) I'm glad you enjoyed the question and think your mixes were great, creative, and super original. I'm also glad that so many folks on Lifehacker had a good discussion, and apologize that I didn't see that. And indeed, you did totally very clearly credit Metafilter. I guess it just seemed funny that it was my question, and I felt...a little exposed somehow? But upon further reflection and after reading the opinions of others, I feel infinitely less squicky about the whole thing, and guess I've learned I'm just more out of touch with how the internet works than I thought!

mosst: I didn't mean to lay claim to everyone's responses, guess I meant that everyone should get credit for his/her/their contribution.

jessamyn: We only troll the ones we love, right? Glad this has brought some good tweet fodder for you.

Wordshore: That FPP has now expanded my understanding of the uber meta-ness of MeTa. Like, whoa.

In closing: I am grateful to everyone who shared their thoughts, and to this internet community for being so constructive and thoughtful in your commentary and humor. I do hope I'm not now known/remembered as the crotchety old lady who can't share nicely!
posted by stillmoving at 1:22 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


I just received ASCAP's daily newsletter, and the Lifehacker article was the basis for the subject line of their email. It's definitely one of those musical water-cooler type questions.
posted by mykescipark at 11:43 AM on March 15


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