[MeFi Site Update] July 5th July 5, 2021 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Hello Metafilter! Please find another update on the state of the site. Reminder: I will be the only mod monitoring this thread so please be patient as I reply to your feedback and questions. If you have any questions or feedback not related to this particular update, please Contact Us instead. If you want to discuss a particular subject not covered here with the community, you’re welcome to open a separate MetaTalk thread for it.

Technical Changes

- No user facing changes. We have been working on some internal tools and improvements to the mod dashboard page.

General Projects we are working on

- We have been testing and setting up a CRM System to improve how our Contact Us process works. If the team approves it, it should go live in the next couple of weeks. This should have little to no impact on the user experience, but will help the team track and manage conversations and reports better.

- The last draft of the Privacy Policy is still being reviewed. We will announce it once it is ready to go live.

Site finances & Fundraising

- Ad revenue has declined and as we reported back in February we’ve been running at a deficit throughout the year.

- To face this we have been rearranging mod resources to get the budget flattened out, which is looking successful so far.

- We are also working out the details for the annual fundraising push soon.

Feel free to start adding questions to this thread and I will do my best to address them as promptly as possible.
posted by loup (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 11:28 AM (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

It would be helpful, maybe at the point of the fundraising push, to have a detailed report about the extent of the deficit, so that we can have a more concrete idea of what MetaFilter needs to be healthy and stable financially.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:47 PM on July 5, 2021 [13 favorites]

Thanks for responding to feedback by including something on site finances and sustainability.
posted by Klipspringer at 3:56 PM on July 5, 2021 [9 favorites]

Autostraddle's fundraising director shared a piece about their donor model which might be helpful.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:31 PM on July 5, 2021 [17 favorites]

Thanks ellieBOA, I'd never heard of Autostraddle, but that piece — and this post setting out their numbers, strategy, and pitch to members — were impressively transparent and professional.
posted by Klipspringer at 2:27 PM on July 6, 2021 [7 favorites]

That is good, and may I add that no strategy in that mix is new, rocket science, or unusual. This is how so many member-centered organizations relate to their constituency, and most of the activities they undertook are things this userbase has been recommending for years. Nice to have it presented so clearly and encouragingly, though.
posted by Miko at 3:24 PM on July 6, 2021 [8 favorites]

In addition, there's Autostraddle's The Receipts, which is basically a changelog that quantifies those changes in relation to the communities they serve.
posted by knucklebones at 4:32 PM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

At this point, MetaFilter is too opaque about their revenue model, profitability plans, or even sustainability plans for me to justify donating to MetaFilter. I was originally skeptical of Miko's suggestion that MetaFilter become a nonprofit, but at this point I am in full agreement with it. I value MetaFilter, but I feel like the path of the organization is an intentional slow march to obsolescence and decay. If that's the business plan of the organization, I can't financially support it.
posted by saeculorum at 5:22 PM on July 6, 2021 [14 favorites]

I'm not sure I follow that argument. I cheerfully pay for Hulu and a couple of other online/publication subscriptions, for example. These subscriptions are not predicated on any demand for those entities to be around forever. The content itself is the value.

While I'd love nothing more than for Metafilter to be around forever, I think of my monthly contribution in a similar way. It's content, not a marble monument.
posted by mochapickle at 7:02 PM on July 6, 2021 [26 favorites]

Loup: In the last update, you mentioned "we're still looking into what needs to be done to redesign the flag button since that is a pretty major feature."

I would like to hear what's become of that. The flag feature was discussed a lot lately in the thread on ableist language, and since cortex is declining to add those words to the slur filter, users can only rely on the flag feature or email contact to address it.

Users have already done a lot of work for you in the flag thread from last year, discussing alternatives. Has anyone read that? Which ideas from that thread, if any, are being considered? Are you (or cortex and frimble) willing to accept user assistance in implementing this?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:37 PM on July 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

I was originally skeptical of Miko's suggestion that MetaFilter become a nonprofit, but at this point I am in full agreement with it.

The Autostraddle post linked above gives a persuasive argument why they have not gone down this route. Whether their reasons apply to Metafilter or not, I'd agree that page is a great example of how to communicate the ins and outs of funding.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:36 AM on July 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

You don't need to be a nonprofit to be transparent or have longevity. It is one path to viability, and one I used to argue was appropriate for an entity that was ostensibly about its community and wanted to demonstrate inclusivity, but there are social enterprises and sheer for-profit businesses in a range of sectors that are also transparent, long-lasting, and community-driven. The values have always been more important to me than the structure, but at this point neither is really on the table for community input anyway so it's moot.

Autostraddle has some really good reasoning against going US nonprofit, reasons that center on their donor base and scale of donations. However, I do challenge the assumptions that underlie for their reason about having to have a BOD. To me, having a board is the biggest asset because it creates opportunities for community representation, openness and power. Autostraddle frames the problem as an either/or choice between creating paid and opportunities and volunteer ones, but it's not binary. First, boards can in fact pay stipends, though it's really rare. They can definitely reimburse board members for expenses, including time, travel, and expertise, though they have to really watch conflict of interest. But more importantly, boards can and do build paid staff positions, and their additional bandwidth for investment means they can often pay staff better than a scrappy hand-to-mouth org can, and establish and fund more paid positions. When a business is underpaying staff because of "the mission" (or "the IPO" or "the release" or "the awesome work environment" or whatever) and riding herd to keep staff to minimal hours and minimal benefits, you may not be creating such fabulous positions that they can truly be considered appropriately remunerative. There's nothing virtuous about being a substandard employer, whether for-profit or non-. So there are some erroneous assumptions in that one point of reasoning.
posted by Miko at 8:18 AM on July 7, 2021 [12 favorites]

Re: Autostraddle, If they have a governance model that works for them, they should stick to it. Having some set of folks with the free time required to perform "nonprofit" doesn't seem to be what they want. Folks with this kind of time are typically folks most served by the systems of supremacy in the U.S, and they typically reproduce those systems where they themselves have control. My guess is this is a big part of why they insist folks within their system are compensated for any labor, otherwise you limit yourself to folks with the time. If the/a board has inherent benefit, they can structure the organization with similarly shared power and leave 501c out of it.

Also, do we know they underpay/exploit their staff? I didn't see that in the support, but a nonprofit form doesn't help with that, though you mention that, so I'm not sure what's going on with those points.

I think, ultimately, Autostraddle's content model is very different than Metafilter's, and theirs are the surest hands to guide it in the ways that make sense to them.
posted by CPAnarchist at 1:23 PM on July 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

As I said, the indeed have made decisions that are right for them. They are a user-supported media business and their choices make sense. The only point I quibble with is the assumption that BOD guidance inevitably means undercompensated work:

"Volunteering on a nonprofit board of directors is a part-time job in and of itself (as is creating and having a board of directors); we’re always going to choose creating paid opportunities over volunteer."

It's not an either/or choice. A BOD can be a paid opportunity, and BODs also have the potential to create very well-paying opportunities. The fact that they pay $50/post isn't a great argument in itself for the superiority of the model; one of the nonprofits I work for pays $275. As an example.
posted by Miko at 8:00 AM on July 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm curious if this post is still being observed by loup or any mod. I know that mod responses aren't supposed to be frequent in the new MeTa paradigm, however it's been 8 days.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 11:32 AM on July 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Yes, I'm closely watching the thread and discussing it with the team, apologies about the silence.

Couple notes:

- We're looking at Autostraddle's fundraising example.
- Yes, the flag thread from last year it our reference point for the change to the "flag" feature.
- I'll circle back regarding the possibility to accept user assistance in implementing any changes to the flag feature.
posted by loup (staff) at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2021

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