[MeFi Site Update] October 20th October 20, 2021 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Hello Metafilter! Please find more details on the state of the site below. Reminder: I will be the only mod monitoring this thread so please be patient as I reply to your feedback and questions.

First off, I’d like to apologize about the silence in the previous thread. I’ve been reading the thread and I’ve been tracking all the feedback there and discussing it as a team with the other mods.

To be completely transparent, as one of the newest mods, I do understand way better now titanic work that older mods have been doing to keep track of all the conversations going on in the big metatalks while being on mod duty as well.

Thinking and planning for growth strategies and how we want to push for membership engagement is our main priority. Now that moderation content and privacy policy have been cemented we agree that this is the next critical milestone for the site.

Now, I’d like to summarize some of the things that we have been talking about and what you can probably expect in the future.

Changes to Site Update schedule
- From now on, you can expect the site updates to be posted every other week on Wednesdays. This will give us more time after the weekly mod meeting to put these together.

Plans for growth
- This is still an open discussion and includes making it easier for members to send out invites to their friends as well as promoting MetaFilter and the subsites externally.

Improvements to the Signup flow
- We need to simplify the signup process and condense all the content in the process (as we did with the About page last year). This also includes simplifying the fee waiver process. Which is already being worked on.

Mod preparation to handle new users
- This is something we have been working on for a while and is tightly linked to all the key moderation content in the website (content policy, community guidelines, microaggressions page). Our goal is to make sure that we have the necessary mod coverage, tools and that we are aligned on moderation best practices.

Technical changes
- We’re working on an “other media” category for FanFare. We are currently testing it and will share more details soon.

- We’re discussing the removal of the question limit in Ask entirely. I’ll report back on that.

BIPOC board Updates
- We’ll share the new meeting dates soon.

Thank you for your patience. If you have more ideas regarding the way in which members could contribute to bring new members to the site, please feel free to share them here.

Lastly, 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.
posted by loup (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 9:35 AM (152 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Reminder: I will be the only mod monitoring this thread so please be patient as I reply to your feedback and questions.[...] To be completely transparent, as one of the newest mods, I do understand way better now titanic work that older mods have been doing to keep track of all the conversations going on in the big metatalks while being on mod duty as well.

Just to keep expectations clear: Can we reliably expect that, from time to time in these threads, you will check in and say something? Possibly a summary of your takeaway from the comments up to that point? Up to you what the interval between check-ins should be, however I would ask no more than 4 days apart at most.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:03 AM on October 20, 2021


I've had an idea rattling around in my head for a year or so now that I have kept to myself, and after reading this update, and going back and reading the last one, I guess this is as good a place as any to say it. I preface this with saying that I'm sincere in this, and not trolling:

Let's turn off the comments on the blue.

It seems to me that they are the source of most conflict between users. They seem to be the source of most conflict between users and moderators. Moderating them must be the biggest time suck for moderators, and we know resourcing is a problem.

Data shared in the comments of the last update show a steady decline in both commenting and posting. I have seen others state - and I feel the same way - that it's increasingly not worth posting because of the automatic criticism you get from some users.

Why not just try turning them off for 30 days and let's see what happens?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:07 AM on October 20, 2021 [4 favorites]


Mod note: Yes, I will reply constantly. Also, as an attempt to keep the thread on topic, this thread will probably be more moderated than the previous one. If you want to discuss anything not covered here, a separate MetaTalk thread would make more sense.
posted by loup (staff) at 10:10 AM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

We’re discussing the removal of the question limit in Ask entirely.
Wow! That's big and could be great!
posted by brainwane at 10:13 AM on October 20, 2021 [20 favorites]


Mod note: Regarding turning off comments on the blue. I'll mention that to the team, but to be honest I doubt the idea will fly since we're a community where anyone is welcome and encouraged to participate. While this may lead to friction some times, I doubt silencing people is the way to go.
posted by loup (staff) at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2021 [22 favorites]


Are there plans in place to figure out how to lower the bar for entry for new users? By "bar for entry", I mean the expectation that new members must know the entire history of the site and read the entire Wiki before participating, or risk scolding from other members.
posted by all about eevee at 10:20 AM on October 20, 2021 [8 favorites]


Just throwing this out in response to NotMyselfRightNow...

How about limiting the amount of comments new users can leave in the blue, to encourage better/more thoughtful contributions to the discussion? It could be a daily or weekly or monthly limit, and the "trial period" could end at mod discretion, or when a certain number of posts/days/months have passed?

It might be a terrible idea, but I can't see any downsides atm.
posted by ipsative at 10:23 AM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


On reading all about eeeves comment: I realize my request introduces a barrier to entry.
posted by ipsative at 10:24 AM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


I appreciate that suggestion, but it's not necessarily new users who are the ones acting poorly.

I doubt silencing people is the way to go.

It's not silencing people. This website - all websites! - constrain user behavior in a thousand different ways. This is no different. People could still contribute through the creation of rich posts full of wonderful links.

And, like I said: Don't go all in. Do a 30 day trial.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


And by request I meant suggestion!
posted by ipsative at 10:30 AM on October 20, 2021


>How about limiting the amount of comments new users can leave in the blue, to encourage better/more thoughtful contributions to the discussion?
I have been a member for over 10 years, and I still rarely comment on the blue because of my perception of the quality of my comments compared to the current discussion. Explicitly telling me that as a new user, my comments are presumed to be low quality and that I need to be throttled so I don't dilute the quality of the conversation is not going to make me less reluctant to chime in. Plus, the artificial scarcity of AskMe questions has people not asking questions to save up for a potential better question. Introducing an artificial scarcity on comments will probably induce at least a few commenters to 'save up' their comments as well. IIRC, the mods already have back-end tools to identify comments from a new user for extra review, so unless we're having an epidemic of low quality comments that the mods can't keep up with, we should probably focus more on inviting new users to chime in even if they think their contribution is of only mediocre quality.
posted by yuwtze at 10:44 AM on October 20, 2021 [41 favorites]


Plans for growth
- This is still an open discussion and includes making it easier for members to send out invites to their friends as well as promoting MetaFilter and the subsites externally.


One simple idea that could help a lot: put the the above-the-fold text for posts or an equivalent excerpt for comments in prominent text at the top of every "favorited by" page, along with a link back to the original. This gives people a mobile-friendly way to share posts and comments without dumping them into the middle of a large thread, while still indicating where it's from and how many others are interacting with it. This could be supplemented with a Pullquote-like button to screencap the content with a logo and share it as a linked image on Twitter and Facebook (similar examples). These kinds of memeable text snippets are very popular and a great, low-friction way to spread content. And as a bonus, adding content and traffic to the favorited-by pages could help boost page rank sitewide.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2021 [12 favorites]


How about limiting the amount of comments new users can leave in the blue

How about limiting the amount of times ANY users can comment in a thread. May make some of the more verbose thread-campers from dominating the conversations, and might make for more nuanced discussion if someone has to really, really, really has to think before firing off their one-liner or berating of another member.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 11:00 AM on October 20, 2021 [23 favorites]


As a single data point on the question of turning off (or arbitrarily throttling) commenting on the Blue: I personally consider comment threads on the Blue to be the highest value of content this site has to offer me, and is also my primary source of engagement. If that feature were removed, I would close my account permanently and cancel my monthly donation. I'm not suggesting that my participation is important to the site, just that as one data point, removing commenting from the Blue would be like removing the answers from AskMe for frequent users of that subsite. Links and questions is not what makes MetaFilter unique. It is the conversation about the links and the answers to the questions that adds the value. MetaFilter is Mefites. For Me. Thanks for listening.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:10 AM on October 20, 2021 [122 favorites]


Let's turn off the comments on the blue.

I know you mean well, but this reminds me very much of when I was in grade school and a bunch of kids would get to talking and snickering so much that the teacher would finally tell the whole class, okay you all need to calm down, so fold your arms, put your head down on your desk and we're going to stay that way till the bell rings
posted by Countess Elena at 11:17 AM on October 20, 2021 [14 favorites]


I know you mean well, but

You've just made my point.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


I too love and value the comments on the blue, even if I seldom comment myself. I would not be opposed to some kind of rate limiting, though - even saying people can only comment every 15 minutes or (perhaps as some kind of probationary status) once per thread would not be bad. I think that would limit the impulse of "this person said something I disagree with, I'll quickly snark them before writing my next opus." But I don't think it would affect the overall conversation, since the most insightful comments are detailed and probably take 15 minutes to write in the first place.

I would not want to do anything (like making new rules to enforce) that would increase the load on mods. The community should be (and usually is) monitoring itself and only need to be reminded of that responsibility by mods.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:25 AM on October 20, 2021 [4 favorites]


It's Raining Florence Henderson: "I personally consider comment threads on the Blue to be the highest value of content this site has to offer me, and is also my primary source of engagement."

QFT.
posted by chavenet at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2021 [14 favorites]


Even a FIVE minute limit on posting another comment would help with the reactionary component and give mods time to keep up with proper deletions in a contentious thread.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2021 [15 favorites]


I also am here primarily for the discussion about the posts. I would be quite happy with a five minute cool down between any particular user's individual posts. It's enough time to keep commenting from becoming quite a much of a back-and-forth conversation and aligns nicely to missing the edit window to fix the dumb typo that I miss in my first comment which helps make me feel incompetent every time I reread the thread in the future.

I'd support giving an idea like this a trial run.
posted by meinvt at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2021 [8 favorites]


I'm skeptical of the idea of throttling individual commenters to one every five minutes, although I wouldn't oppose the experiment. My guess is that threads would become more cumbersome as people would mostly be engaging five minutes in the past of the thread, so the conversation would constantly be damned up rather than allowed to flow naturally. But that's a guess, and I could absolutely be wrong.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:58 AM on October 20, 2021 [5 favorites]


"The activity on the site declines as the userbase dwindles."
"Hey, here's an idea - let's make more limits on how much people can talk!"
posted by Meatbomb at 12:02 PM on October 20, 2021 [59 favorites]


Five minutes between comments would hobble no one, com'on now.
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:05 PM on October 20, 2021


Also? Can we not have that thing in this thread where users belittle each other's ideas? That sure feels more poisonous to me than any particular idea.
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:06 PM on October 20, 2021 [11 favorites]


Mod note: Limiting the amount of times users can comment in a thread would certainly be a useful moderation tool as well. I'm not 100% sure how easy it would be to implement that but I'm certainly bringing that up to this week's meeting with the team.
posted by loup (staff) at 12:17 PM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


Should discussion on eliminating/throttling comments perhaps get it's own MeTa?
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 12:29 PM on October 20, 2021 [6 favorites]


Rather than (or addition to, I suppose) directly user-impacting throttling, more useful in a moderation-toolkit sense would probably be a behind-the-scenes automatic notification of along the lines of: User A has made X out of Y comments in Z period. A heads-up for attention not relying on inconsistent flaggings that might or might not happen (it's been stated in the past that various threads that blew up ugly barely got flagged until well into shrapnel-exponent phases). Variables tweakable for general sweet-spotting of what tends to start indicating a comment spiral about to happen, versus just someone excited about a topic and being bouncy but not indicating a problem. Probably individually-thread-tweakable too, for post topics that ping the "oh boy, let's see how this goes this time" instincts.

(A wheel that thoroughly reinvented might already be in place for all I know!)
posted by Drastic at 12:29 PM on October 20, 2021


I favor a maximum number of comments in a given thread rather than a timeout—maybe (though lord knows it would be hard to implement) having a daily limit on a user’s comments in a thread.

So, like, a user could make three comments in any given 24 hour period on a given thread. This would allow threads to maintain conversation over several days, while also leaving plenty of time to calm down emotions.

In a world where we all own ponies, the comment limit could even be adjusted by mods downwards if things get heated, or upwards if things get silly and start leaning towards friendly one-liners).
posted by thecaddy at 12:31 PM on October 20, 2021


- We’re working on an “other media” category for FanFare. We are currently testing it and will share more details soon.

I'm so glad to hear this, because it leads me to my other big idea for revamping the site.

The fundamental issue facing MetaFilter is a decline in both ad revenue and inbound traffic from Google. That's what kicked off the original crisis under mathowie, and the state of the site updates show it gets worse every year. The direct effect of this is less pay for the mods and reduced mod coverage, which leads to mod burnout, which inflames community tensions when people feel mods are unresponsive or worse, that their missteps are directly causing the decline (in reality most traffic and revenue is from drive-by users to Ask who are blissfully unaware of contentious MetaTalk threads). Funding from users has helped fill the gap somewhat, but as the last fundraiser showed, that source is largely maxed out and won't be sufficient if the global ad market continues to ebb. (And it is the global market, not just MeFi -- see for instance the collapse of The Deck ad network we'd relied on in the past).

This sounds grim, but it's important to put this all in context. For the first 5-10 years of its life, MeFi was run entirely by mathowie and a "self-policing" ethos. Jessamyn joined in 2005, pb added technical help in 2006, and cortex joined in 2007, but as I understand it these were side gigs at best. It wasn't until revenue neared its height in 2011-12 -- a dozen+ years in -- that the site could afford to start expanding into a full-fledged team of professional mods with a regular schedule and benefits. This was an impressive and admirable achievement, given that the vast majority of sites use volunteer mods, an army of low-wage drones, or automated measures (if they moderate or allow comments at all).

Unfortunately, starting with the Google turnaround in 2014 this model has become increasingly unsustainable. But it doesn't threaten the survival of the site itself -- just the current pay structure of the mod team. That's shitty but different from not being able to afford keeping the lights on.

So, assuming the old web ad market continues to shrink (and that nobody here wants to pursue a crazy new TikTok/NFT/whatever-the-new-hotness-is strategy), the only real option is to slowly dial back the paid professional moderation and focus more on community building and community governance. We don't want a situation where the vast majority of the mod burden as well as responsibility for keeping the site itself running falls on cortex; mathowie did that for years and said it was a recipe for extreme burnout and health problems.

It seems that the biggest point of friction for users today is the generalized nature of MeFi (and to a lesser extent Ask). That is, when someone makes a post on a sensitive cultural/religious/racial/gender/etc. topic, they get frustrated when that discussion is derailed by ignorant or thoughtless comments by folks outside that community (who in turn get upset at being called out). The guidelines do a commendable job trying to set a standard, but it's an inevitable conflict for a general-interest website as the online discourse grows ever more complex and nuanced.

Another community site I enjoy, ResetEra, handles this problem in a very successful way: in addition to a general-interest discussion board, they have a separate board dedicated to community "hangout" threads on specific topics: hobbies, fandoms, careers, identities, and more. Each thread is started and maintained by a prominent community member and a large group of regulars, who stock it with useful information and create a welcoming atmosphere for others. They also largely self-moderate, leaving the sitewide mods to focus on the general-interest board.

I think this could be a fantastic new model for MetaFilter -- and we already have all the tools in place to make it a reality.

Right now, there is a little-noticed section of FanFare called "FanFare Clubs". This was intended to be a place to organize discussion of book and movie clubs and keep their threads and meta-discussion collected in one place. Users can join a club, post threads to it using a special tag, and follow them at leisure. The system works well, if a little under-promoted. But why not expand that tool for use by any group at all?

Imagine: BikeFilter. CatholicFilter. TransFilter. GuitarFilter. PoliticsFilter. BIPOCFilter. CancerFilter. ParentFilter. NYCFilter. This would not only open up welcoming and informative community spaces to attract and retain users, but it would also shield marginalized groups from the 101-level ignorance that comes with posting their threads on a front page dominated by hot takes from people not in those groups. Give group maintainers the ability to delete comments and leave mod notes within those groups, and it would go a long way to making people feel like they have a safe space and a stake in community governance. It would also reduce the extent that sitewide mods have to make fraught moderation decisions for communities they're not a part of. That's not a small change but one that will have to happen regardless as the site transitions away from 24/7 mod coverage, and this would be a positive, constructive way to ease into that instead of feeling like moderation is being abandoned.

Apart from group creators potentially having mod powers in those groups, all the infrastructure for this is already here. All the feature really needs is some additional promotion (like a dedicated homepage showing recently active and most-popular clubs) and permission from the mods to use it for that purpose. Expanding FanFare to "other media" is a good first step, but I hope the next one can be leaning into this vision of MetaFilter as a community of diverse communities that help mod themselves instead of trying to fit everyone into one front-page box overseen by a shrinking and increasingly exhausted team.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:41 PM on October 20, 2021 [68 favorites]


My thoughts on comment limits: Given the owner's love of heavy participation in long, creative/jokey/riff type threads, I suspect that comment limits would need to be a feature that could be easily suspended (if it were the default condition).

But despite my admittedly selfish love of the same kind of threads, my biggest concern about arbitrary participation limits would be in two other types of scenarios:

1) Expert participation. Some of the more interesting threads for me are when either the subject of a thread or an expert in the subject join the conversation. Frequently in such cases, the expert is engaged by many others in the thread, and I would hate to limit their contributions.

2) Inclusivity. I worry about the effect of limiting participation in conversations such that underrepresented voices would be automatically drowned out by the majority, even if the majority is participating in good faith.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:43 PM on October 20, 2021 [19 favorites]




- We’re discussing the removal of the question limit in Ask entirely. I’ll report back on that.

As somebody who has been specifically called out in MeTa for posting too many questions, I'm all for this.
posted by signal at 1:02 PM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


Just so I understand better, Rhaomi, your proposal would be for additional "clubs," not subreddit-like sections of the site devoted to certain topics? Because your suggestions of bikefilter, Catholicfilter, etc., made me think of Reddit.
posted by emelenjr at 1:14 PM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


Reddit is another website that uses that model to great success, yes. Their main problem is that they have very lax global standards that allow extremely awful groups to fester until media attention forces them to quash. But with the right guidelines and enforcement, there's nothing wrong with the sub-group model. (And even on Reddit, subreddits with strong moderation and culture form diamonds in the rough, like with /r/AskHistorians.)

edit: to clarify, I don't think each group would need a separate subsite, but certainly making them the central focus of FanFare (perhaps with a name change and dedicated URL, like groups.metafilter.com/baseball) would be a good idea.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:22 PM on October 20, 2021 [7 favorites]


(I have not heard of FanFare Groups and is that a thing for real? It's not linked that I can see and it's not mentioned on the FanFare FAQ.)
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:30 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


Oh sorry, I see it now in the drop down menu. Had no idea!
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:32 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


My One Grand Idea To Save The Site is we should have at least one alphabet thread per week.
posted by phunniemee at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2021 [7 favorites]


At least
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:46 PM on October 20, 2021


Besides that, maybe a car wash?
posted by phunniemee at 1:49 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


Cookbook sale?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:05 PM on October 20, 2021


Derail?
posted by oulipian at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2021 [9 favorites]


I'm just going to add my voice to the chorus of those going "oh no, let's get more comments of all types out here, and fuck 'quality'!" Remember when we did WomensMarch and JulyByWomen, encouraging more people to just throw a FPP out without fretting the FPPs weren't good enough... and then we got flooded with FPPs with all kinds of interesting contributions that had something for everyone to be excited by?

Yeah. The same is true for conversations, which is always why I am on the side of "more people, more conversation, more points of view". The easier it feels for people to toss something out, perfect or not, the more great stuff we will get here. Perfect is the enemy of both good and interesting. I want to hear folks think. I want to hear questions and complications. I want to draw out perspectives and thought processes that don't get a lot of time in the sun. I want growth. I want the messiness that comes with thinking out loud and being allowed to fuck things up sometimes and being trusted to keep trying to respect one another anyway.

I also kind of love Rhaomi's Clubs idea. There are certainly some of these that have existed on the Blue formally or informally in the past, with users or groups of users casually discussing topic-driven posting clubs where everyone can comment for periods of time. The idea is a bigger structural change than we've talked about in the past, but I think Rhaomi is very correct in thinking that the tools are in place already to make it potentially feasible.
posted by sciatrix at 2:17 PM on October 20, 2021 [49 favorites]


(I am also in favor of more ridiculous faux-warfare regional cuisine fight FPPs, if anyone has one in mind....)
posted by sciatrix at 2:18 PM on October 20, 2021 [6 favorites]


What's the point if there's no comments allowed? I can get a list of urls anywhere.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 2:52 PM on October 20, 2021 [37 favorites]


I don't know anything about ResetEra, other than it just sold for $4.5 million. Is it profitable? If so, how? If not, is it just worth that for the user data and some revenue like ads?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:56 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


oulipian: "Derail?"

Definitely, at least once a day. There's no reason to stay on the tracks, all the really interesting stuff is off the beaten path.
posted by chavenet at 3:23 PM on October 20, 2021 [8 favorites]


People here used to frequently argue that things like imposing limits on time between comments or number of comments in a thread or whatever is looking for a technical solution to what is fundamentally a social problem. In the past when ideas like this have been raised I don't think there's been much traction, and the counterargument has been that it's more effective and simpler to use our site's professional moderators to identify and address issues with one or two individuals dominating a thread when they arise, rather than impose a blanket rule that could have chilling effects on the amount of site participation.

I'm still inclined to think this, but... we no longer have 24/7 mod coverage, and even with that, it's quite clear that moderating contentious threads with the tools the mods have available to them is burning them out far too rapidly. So while I don't like it, I'm cautiously willing to entertain the idea of some kind of technical solution like that. I guess what I'd like to propose is that perhaps this should be a tool available to use as-needed, rather than a blanket rule for the site. Perhaps when there's no mod on duty, the mods can put the site into "slowdown mode" where a 5 minute timeout between comments applies? Perhaps when a difficult, fast-moving thread arises, the mods can temporarily put that thread into slowdown to let everyone catch their breath? I guess I'd just rather see this kind of thing as a tool available to the mod team that they can deploy when appropriate, rather than something we apply broadly without consideration for what's actually happening on the ground in any given thread.
posted by biogeo at 3:45 PM on October 20, 2021 [8 favorites]


That's a well-considered counter-proposal, I think. Not unlike putting contentious MetaTalk threads on hold when there is no one to cover them. If this was going to be a tool for them to use at all, I think it would have much less of a chilling effect on the site if it was used sparingly as actually needed, instead of by default.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:12 PM on October 20, 2021 [4 favorites]


turn off favorites for 2 days to one week on the blue and grey, comments only.
posted by clavdivs at 5:30 PM on October 20, 2021


Perhaps when there's no mod on duty, the mods can put the site into "slowdown mode" where a 5 minute timeout between comments applies?

Discord has this, and it is definitely useful when things are moving fast (see: blaseball). As with most things in the codebase I wonder if it can be easily implemented. I'd be really interested to hear from mods about when they WISH they'd had this; the megathreads are what jump to mind for me but those have been taken off the table for the foreseeable future, and I wonder what actual problems it would've solved since. (I avoid a lot of the highly-contentious threads so this is a genuine question)
posted by curious nu at 5:31 PM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


I really, really like Rhaomi's idea and think it would be useful. Tweeting, mailing, whatevering a link like that that showed the social engagement with a comment, the content of what would likely be an funny, informative, or otherwise awesome comment, and the context would be a good introduction to MetaFilter. Please make this happen.
posted by Gotanda at 5:37 PM on October 20, 2021 [5 favorites]


Please don’t get rid of commenting on the Blue. And rate limiting comments is an interesting idea, but I submit that it should be a per-thread limit that’s much higher than three comments per day. I think the five minutes sounds like a good place to start.

I’m intrigued by the idea of removing the limit on AskMe questions (or putting it at 1/day like the Blue). I would personally like to see more Chatfilter questions allowed, too, but I know how that could turn into a nightmare for the mods.
posted by Night_owl at 5:48 PM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


I know this proposal has been strongly shunned before but the reason I don’t invite anyone to Metafilter is that I can’t delete posts or questions without going through a mod. I share a lot about marginalized experiences and I don’t want anyone who knows me in real life to easily be able to compile all those vulnerabilities and struggles by clicking on my username and reading through my posts.

If I could periodically clean up comments and posts like I can on literally any other social media site, I would invite a lot more people. I would also comment more—I’ve stopped sharing my specific experiences with some things because I’m feeling that vulnerability more and more. Having a permanent public record of any time I share my experiences as a marginalized person certainly dissuades me from participating.

But I don’t know if anyone else has that problem.
posted by brook horse at 5:54 PM on October 20, 2021 [31 favorites]


I had that problem with this account being tied to my real life enough that I made a new account and made sure it didn't link in any way to my old one, which I had started in 2001. It's been discussed to death here but it definitely is peculiar in this internet age. I personally feel at least there should be a stronger warning to new users how mostly permanent their contributions are here, but at the same time we don't need to be scaring off new users so...I don't know.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:58 PM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


As another long term user closing comments on threads on the blue would basically be the end of MeFi for me - but that's not an ultimatum, and I will get into the nitty gritty and feelings about why I feel this way.

For one - with a lot of current events or newsfilter threads I've already read up on a lot of those links and current events and I'm here for what this community has to say about that. The comments have been incredibly informative as well as comforting in trying times through the age of the naked Cheeto emperor, but that useful history goes all the way back to unprecedented fast moving threads like during 9/11, or the dozens if not hundreds of political megathreads.

For two - as someone who likes to read and tell stories about a wide variety of topics, the commentary and community here is still top notch and has evolved and refined itself in ways that no other sites I've met to date have been able to accomplish. We are, together, diamonds. We are magical star stuff, each of us alone, and we're whole galaxies when we're together. We shine in ways that are priceless and valuable beyond any amount of gold or money.

Give yourself a hearty pat on the back for that, you staff and mods. You too, the community at large for self-policing. Your efforts here are not unappreciated. Thank you. Thank you so, so much for helping keep this community alive and active. Thank you for participating earnestly. Thank you for sharing and giving so much and being so earnest.

I'm not sure what I would even do without MeFi at this point. It would be... like a death in the family. There would be a yawning, gaping hole in my heart from the loss, and I've had rather enough loss in the past few years in my community and personal circles. Since I tend to pre-grieve, I've definitely thought about what it would be like. A lot. And it makes my heart hurt.

Back to the comment issue - I've personally dialed back a lot of my over the top and often confrontational commentary style that used to be a lot more problematic and combative, back when MeFI was more like a free for all on a lively Usenet group where things could get rough. I've learned a lot about how to say things and think a lot more about others when I write here, and everywhere else, and I have a lot of thanks to give to the MeFi community for this mellowing and increased articulation.


So, an idea.

I think this has been raised before and was considered a non-starter, but maybe we should revisit volunteer moderation.

Perhaps we could make it worthwhile and equitable to assemble a cadre of volunteer moderators who do have the energy, willingness and time to pitch in with this. Perhaps with some kind of a program that has safety check-ins and a support network that helps make it work for everyone, and it's not taking away from a paid staff income or salary and supports them and helps spread the load to help with the burnout.

There was a time when I would have been down to join that team and train up for it and I had the time but I don't think I do, now, as I spend rather too much time staring at my screen working from home, which is one reason why I've been generally commenting less here, and haven't been participating in the weekly metatalk-tail threads as much as I would like.

I have a hunch though that there are at least a dozen if not dozens of active members that would be into taking on a volunteer moderation role and who are suitable for the job and task, especially if it came with some structure, support and safety check ins. There's a lot of people here that would love to contribute more, but may have more time than money to do so.


I know that volunteer moderation is an issue that MeFi would like to avoid because it's real work and being aware of that differentiates us from the problems of unpaid moderation on sites like reddit.

So, maybe we put an equivalent dollar amount on volunteer hours or offer some kind of reward. Perhaps a shiny star and tag on a profile page that can show how many hours they've volunteered not unlike the "I help fund MetaFilter!" tag.

If MeFi was a non-profit, maybe logged hours doing moderation could be a legitimate tax write off or donation for volunteers. Maybe we could figure out some gift cards or rewards, or perhaps some people might be interested in putting up art, goods or services that could be earned as a thank you, and we can practice some mutual aid and functional community skills.

Shoot, I don't have much to offer but I would love to send small, weird gifts to volunteers. Maybe some music, or some art. Maybe some photos of a nice walk in the gorgeous place I live in.

Maybe some participants in the MeFi mall would be into gifts for volunteers. Maybe some people have services they can offer to volunteer. There's a lot of opportunity, here.

At this point in my life I've been around a lot of volunteering and non-profits and I'm consistently and constantly blown away about how much people are willing to do and help get done if you let them help and give them the tools and structures to do so.

For example I volunteer at my local food bank and it's incredibly rewarding to me as it's own thing. But there's also some small rewards, like occasionally we get gift cards to local business donated to us as a thank you specifically for the volunteer staff. There's also some dedicated volunteers who cook a nice, healthy lunch for us so we're all fed and cared for. We also regularly check in with each other and help share the load and make sure we're all doing ok so we can function as an organization.

We - as a community and family called MetaFilter - are absolutely capable of doing this sort of a thing. There's so, so many people here who have experiences with non-profits, social justice, volunteering and pro bono work. I have seen the benefits of offering a sense of involvement and ownership in balanced, non-toxic ways to members of a community who desperately wish to be able to contribute more.

People who wish to volunteer without guile or ego, without power tripping, that they just want to contribute and help if not give back to something that has already given them so much.

That's basically how I feel about food banks, especially the one I volunteer at. That I could volunteer for years and it would never repay the personal or social debt I feel that owe them for feeding me when I've been hungry and hurting. And beyond being fed, the sense of self worth that someone wanted to give me food when I was hungry, or clean socks when I was dirty and tired.

Or the absolutely priceless self worth and actualization of being asked to volunteer because someone saw something in me when I've been deeply depressed and feeling worthless. Every single time I go to volunteer I feel cleansed and uplifted by the drastic shift in my perspective about the real size of my problems. I feel less helpless about the state of the world being enabled to help contribute something that makes a difference. I feel like I get to actually DO SOMETHING about the many terrible things that make me feel bad about how shitty our world can be to so many people.

It's a funny thing, but the more I volunteer, it's almost like I feel even more indebted for the opportunity to do these things, and that's just fine by me. It's not a toxic or guilt-ridden feeling that I'm not doing enough or that I actually owe the organization anything at all - but that I simply feel more capable and willing to do more simply because of these natural rewards that come from volunteering.

I feel this way about MeFi, too. I couldn't possibly do enough to repay my cultural and social debts to what I've been given, here, by so many people, and this goes far beyond what happened with my collapsed lung and being utterly homeless in about 2012 and the help that poured over me during that time.

Even more importantly, I can never do enough to repay the social growth and self worth I've experienced felt from MetaFilter. I would be a sorry wreck without this very real community.


And in the long term? And as inadvisable as this would be?

Well, if I was in charge of this crazy ship I'd be looking at establishing MeFi as a non-profit that functioned something like a community garden or food bank or something like that. Something that was well organized, community-focused, responsive and still able to pay a living wage to the essential core staff and employees like any good non-profit, but something that also had systems and structures in place to allow people to equitably and safely volunteer and help contribute whatever they could whether it was time, money or goods and services in ways that were healthy, equitable and sensitive to everyone involved.

And considering how little MeFi likely gets from ad revenue at this point, it probably wouldn't be structurally or financially much different than it already is today apart from how the accounting, taxes and financials worked.


Anyway, I absolutely, unconditionally and irrevocably love you people and I want you all to know it and feel it. The mods. The community. Our members and contributors. Our lurkers. I love all of the different perspectives and voices. I love all of the amazing things I learn here ranging from the social, to the technical, to the scientific, to the political and cultural. I would be a mere fraction of the human being I am today without this place.

I love how much we've all grown together and how, somehow, despite all odds and opposition - we're still here doing our thing. We've been through triumph and sorrow, we've been through loss and death, we've been through so, so much.

If anyone takes anything away from this, I want to remind everyone that this place is more than a website. It's more than a link and news aggregator. It's more than the sum of its parts and I want to send love anyone who cares about this place that this is magical and special and should be cherished, fostered and given all of the room and effort that it can be afforded to grow and thrive.

I want to remind everyone that they tried to bury us, but they didn't know that we are seeds.

Huge hugs to any and all who want them. Bring it in here. I want to squeeze the heck out of all of you.
posted by loquacious at 6:00 PM on October 20, 2021 [25 favorites]


As long as radical changes to commenting in the blue are being proposed--I would like to suggest making comments threaded. Yes, this would change the site culture, but it's changed before, and it's changing even now during the decline. Over many years I've come to believe that the "everyone talking to each other in the same room" effect, although it is definitely integral to the MeFi experience, is a negative part of the MeFi experience.

Not talking about reordering of comments, upvoting/downvoting, hiding sub-threads, any of that fancy stuff--just simple indentation.

Unfortunately this would clearly require way more effort on the development side, compared to other experiments like comment rate limiting. But to me it seems worth a try.
posted by equalpants at 6:05 PM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


The commenting is how we connect to things going on all over the world. We have members all over, and their understanding of different locales, political machinery, climate, happenings and all add depth to the posts. I am here to learn and connect. Metafilter is a nice joint with a pleasing identity. Thanks to hard working Mods. and dedicated members.
posted by Oyéah at 6:16 PM on October 20, 2021 [10 favorites]


Five minutes between comments would hobble no one,

a while back I made a comment that I didn't think that controversial. It immediately got jumped on by a few people. I re-read my comment and realized I'd omitted a key word which meant it was saying something I didn't intend. I quickly posted a second comment that corrected this. The temperature soon returned to normal. This all took less than two minutes.
posted by philip-random at 6:29 PM on October 20, 2021 [8 favorites]


Maybe you'd have still gotten a comment but not multiple ones before you had time to correct the mistake.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:32 PM on October 20, 2021


This all took less than two minutes.

This is a pretty good indication of why an edit window and a timeout between comments could be a really bad combo. Instead of adding a new comment, people would be compelled to do edits.
posted by snofoam at 6:35 PM on October 20, 2021 [9 favorites]


I think none of us know the effect it would have but I'm willing to bet it's effect could help in many situations I've seen on rapid-fire comment sections.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:37 PM on October 20, 2021


Timeout windows don't have to be defined as "1 action/N minutes". For rate-limiting use cases, I'd vote for 3 comments within 20 minutes.
posted by gsteff at 6:55 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


I don't know anything about ResetEra, other than it just sold for $4.5 million. Is it profitable? If so, how? If not, is it just worth that for the user data and some revenue like ads?

Apparently it made huge amounts of revenue from ads. I've heard the figure of $700K/year thrown around.

It sounds like there are changes to FanFare being worked on, and I really hope that something can be done to make it more usable because a usable Fanfare is the lowest of all low-hanging fruits for getting more participation and (I'm pretty sure) more income for the site.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:57 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


Timeout windows don't have to be defined as "1 action/N minutes".

I can definitely see the argument for a mod just being able to "apply the brakes" for a while every now and then, hopefully with a comment that says as much.

"Hey all, the chaos quotient of this thread has hit critical mass. We're down to one comment per user every three minutes until things cool down."
posted by philip-random at 7:00 PM on October 20, 2021 [4 favorites]


Apparently it made huge amounts of revenue from ads. I've heard the figure of $700K/year thrown around.

That's an impressive number, when we hear so much about how ads have cratered in value.

Can MetaFilter do what they're doing, or is the scale too radically different? Or are we talking about something like paid posts that would be incompatible with MeFi?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 7:14 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


I think when the mods put the brakes on a thread, everyone should get three more comments from that point on in that thread with regular rules. After the three, any additional comments by a given user for the next twenty minutes have to be written in a poetic form that is randomly chosen and strictly enforced by the comment form. And each new comment has to use a different poetic form than the previous forms used by a given user.

I'm probably joking. Mostly.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:24 PM on October 20, 2021 [5 favorites]


If it's at all relevant, the comments/discussion are, by far, my favorite part of Metafilter. It's why I come here. I don't know if I'd stay without them. And as a person prone to typos in constant fear of abusing the edit window, the whole five minute hold-up thing makes me nervous.
posted by thivaia at 7:25 PM on October 20, 2021 [12 favorites]


That's an impressive number, when we hear so much about how ads have cratered in value.

Can MetaFilter do what they're doing, or is the scale too radically different? Or are we talking about something like paid posts that would be incompatible with MeFi?


Their traffic is ~10x bigger for starters, plus their userbase is younger and built around the very lucrative gaming market. They also only pay their their tech team (and maybe the top admin) -- the rest of the official mod team and unofficial "hangout" maintainers are volunteers.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:30 PM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


I have been pondering the usefulness and appeal of a small marker that someone is new to the site, for example, it could be a small blue dot next to their name in the "posted by" line, that users could use for their first six or 12 months on the site, so that Long time users would recognize that this is someone still acclimating to meta filter and gentle guidance when they make a mist up might be more appropriate than coming down hard.

In my idea it would be something you set up when you set up your profile, and it would say "new members have the option of having a little blue dot next to their name for six or 12 months, to let other users know that they are new and still learning the ways of the place. Using the blue dot is optional, and you may turn it off at any time."

Anyway, I wanted to put that out there, and hear whether people have ideas of better ways to do that, or if people have iterations of it that might be cooler or more helpful, or if people just think it's the dumbest idea ever.

I also think it would be pretty great if we had like a monthly welcome thread where new members could come and share a little bit about themselves and enthusiastic members of the site could chat with them in the meta talk thread to welcome new members. Just a place where people could get the sense that hey, we're regular people who are fun and interesting, and we're not just people who scream at each other about politics on the blue.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:24 PM on October 20, 2021 [27 favorites]


So it'd be like,

posted by Eyebrows McGee🔹at 11:24 PM on October 20

(I just picked a random emoji that look like a small blue dot, it could be a hedgehog, whatever)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:27 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


If I may be so bold as to suggest a brand new rule
whereby a post penned in an oddly chosen metric verse
should be exempted from such rules restricting time and pace.
Seven iambs per line, for one, is hard to write with grace.
And if we add a rhyme scheme it could be a little worse
to write too fast and accidentally come across as cruel.
posted by biogeo at 9:43 PM on October 20, 2021 [28 favorites]


I really like the idea of an optional newbie badge! I think it should probably be easy to turn back on as well as off during that period if the user so chooses. I can imagine feeling unsure about whether it's a good idea to leave on or not, so being able to freely toggle it might help with settling in.
posted by biogeo at 9:48 PM on October 20, 2021 [4 favorites]


Even a FIVE minute limit on posting another comment

No, no time limits, and please, no threading -- instead, how about limiting the SIZE of comments? Some of you just go on & on, tl;dr & my eyes glaze over.
posted by Rash at 10:21 PM on October 20, 2021 [7 favorites]


Let’s get new members before we decide how to ostracize them.
posted by geoff. at 10:35 PM on October 20, 2021 [64 favorites]


Plans for growth: This is still an open discussion and includes making it easier for members to send out invites to their friends as well as promoting MetaFilter and the subsites externally.

Please tell me this discussion involves sorting out which professionals you need to work with to define your marketing plan, that there will be real budget allocated towards it, that targets will be set, that there will be a way of defining and measuring success, and that there will be a testing plan to optimize accordingly.

Because I'm concerned that this (like most MetaFilter improvement plans) is being thought of as a few tactical initiatives (planned and run internally) rather than the much needed long term strategic program. Ad hoc activities that are reliant on mods' expertise and users' enthusiasm aren't going to deliver the returns needed to ensure the longevity of the site.

My worry is that, if you don't know what you don't know (i.e. you're not engaging professionals with experience and expertise), then "Try something - anything - and hope for the best" sounds like it might work, and when it fails it's both disheartening and nothing is learned from it, which has happened frequently here.
posted by iivix at 2:43 AM on October 21, 2021 [33 favorites]


^ I couldn't agree with this more.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:25 AM on October 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


Ad hoc activities that are reliant on mods' expertise and users' enthusiasm aren't going to deliver the returns needed to ensure the longevity of the site.

Agreed! There may be a few obvious things to try to increase signups and engagement (remove signup fee, allow more ask posts) that are probably worth trying right away. There might be users that could give some good advice if they had access to the data. But success is probably only going to come from a real plan developed with some kind of outside input. There are lots of well-meaning suggestions in these comments, but most don’t seem likely to increase users at all. I guess they are meant to address mod burnout or managing the tidal wave of new users, but much like the management here, the users are often into beanplating minor tweaks to the site and that path leads nowhere.
posted by snofoam at 4:43 AM on October 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


Lol at this thread being like a half dozen people posting repeatedly.

No value judgment, just lol.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:03 AM on October 21, 2021 [5 favorites]


posted by Eyebrows McGee🔹

no0b
posted by biffa at 5:22 AM on October 21, 2021 [8 favorites]


I think these two ideas have both been mentioned by other people before, but I'll mention them again. First, killfiles for FPP topics/keywords, as well as users, would be great. Not that I'd ever put anyone here in a killfile--I love you all equally!--but as we saw with the megathreads, sometimes you just want to be able to hide some posts that otherwise get under your skin.

Second, hiding comments that have been flagged multiple times. Like, say I post an inflammatory comment. What'll usually happen is, several people will flag my comment, but since there's a lag between that and when a mod has a chance to take care of it, other people comment about my ranting, still others comment about their comments, and the thread starts to fill with material the mods will have to excise. But if my comment were hidden after 3-5 flags, then the mods would have time to go in and deal with it, without the reactions to the comment filling the thread.
posted by mittens at 5:22 AM on October 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


So if you can get two other people to flag a comment, it will automatically go away?
posted by Grangousier at 5:30 AM on October 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


Well, be hidden temporarily for mod consideration. Although that's a good point, I guess there could be a shadowy cabal that steers conversations by selective overflagging/hiding...
posted by mittens at 5:57 AM on October 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure it needs to be a shadowy cabal, as such, but I'm old and ugly enough to be slightly wary of a mechanism that can be easily gamed.
posted by Grangousier at 6:07 AM on October 21, 2021 [16 favorites]


“Thinking and planning for growth strategies and how we want to push for membership engagement is our main priority.”

If it helps, here's a summary of what's been suggested so far, loosely ordered. My apologies for missing anything or misrepresenting anything. I've done the best I could.
  • Turning off the comments on the blue.
  • Limiting the amount of comments new users can leave in the blue
  • Limiting the amount of times ANY users can comment in a thread.
  • A five minute cool down between any particular user's individual posts
  • A behind-the-scenes automatic notification for users making x comments in y period
  • A maximum number of comments in a given thread rather than a timeout
  • Being able to put the site into "slowdown mode" where a 5 minute timeout between comments applies
  • Putting contentious MetaTalk threads on hold when there is no one to cover them
  • Turning off favorites for 2 days to one week on the blue and grey, comments only.
  • A per-thread limit that’s much higher than three comments per day, e.g., five minutes
  • Limit to 3 comments within 20 minutes.
  • One comment per user every three minutes. After the three, any additional comments [poetry rules].
  • Limiting the size of comments
  • Killfiles for FPP topics/keywords, as well as users
  • Hiding comments that have been flagged multiple times.
  • Removing the limit on AskMe questions (or 1/day like the Blue).
  • More Chatfilter questions allowed
  • Tweeting, mailing, whatevering a link showing the social engagement with a comment
  • Be able to clean up comments and posts
  • Stronger warning to new users how mostly permanent their contributions are here
  • Separate board dedicated to community "hangout" threads on specific topics
  • At least one alphabet thread per week
  • Encouraging more people to just throw a FPP out without fretting the FPPs weren't good enough
  • Revisit volunteer moderation
  • Sending small incentives to volunteers
  • Revenue from ads (like ResetEra)
  • Making comments threaded
  • A small marker that someone is new to the site / an optional newbie badge
  • Sorting out which professionals you need to work with.
  • Above-the-fold text for posts or an equivalent excerpt for comments in prominent text at the top of every "favorited by" page
  • Remove signup fee
  • Allow more ask posts
  • A monthly welcome thread
Let's do all of them and see how it goes!
posted by iamkimiam at 6:33 AM on October 21, 2021 [8 favorites]


Eyebrows, please ignore the snark about ostracizing new users. I think the optional blue dot is a good idea and so is the welcome thread. The main thing I want is for new people to be welcomed in immediately and not be afraid to participate by posting comments, questions, and FPPs right away.
posted by all about eevee at 6:37 AM on October 21, 2021 [6 favorites]


We’re discussing the removal of the question limit in Ask entirely.

As one of those people who never asks questions because what if I need to ask a question, I thank you.
posted by amarynth at 6:56 AM on October 21, 2021 [24 favorites]


I think the snark was about ostracizing new users via all these ways to restrict commenting, not EM's suggestion--at least that's how I interpreted it. I also like EM's suggestion a lot!
posted by brook horse at 7:00 AM on October 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


I think that the current values of the site in order appear to be:

High quality discussion, but in an increasingly narrow window of acceptability. I'm not implying that this is a problem, but I think many people here are underestimating the implicit barrier to entry that creates. From the initial post, as new user I'm going to have to clearly understand the "content policy, community guidelines, microaggressions page" plus the myriad of unwritten historical baggage in order to really feel comfortable posting and responding. That's going to take a motivated user, and means your conversion rate from new users to engaged users is going to be very low (although potentially it can be improved by targeting potential users who see that as a feature).

Low cost for users. Sites with motivated userbases that want to make more money (or any money) generally charge a subscription rather than a one-time fee. It's not always high but it can be - off the top of my head I can think of a few similar ones ranging from $10 / year to $80 / year. Having an extremely motivated core userbase without charging a subscription implies to me that having low cost for users is a core value.

Those two values result in the site being how it is - a smallish community site with a dedicated core set of users, but one which that appears to be right on the edge of financial solvency on a regular basis.

I agree with the comments above that an actual marketing plan would help, but I think even before that it would be helpful to clearly articulate why "growth" is a goal, and how it fits in with the above two values.

If you want to grow the userbase while preserving discussion quality it's going to cost money (marketing and moderation costs, which you won't recoup from a small entry fee or advertising). If you want to increase the site finances in the short term it's going to compromise the user base - charging a subscription fee would mean losing a decent number of users, slowing discussion, and lowering moderation costs, but it would mean more money now. I would expect that any growth plan would cover how these work together - "We're going to increase the community size and engagement so that we can be solvent later by monetizing the larger community via [X]", or "We're going to increase revenue now at the cost of a short term community hit, which we think we can get past by spending our increased revenue on [Y]"

On a personal level I'm a lurker for ~20 years or so, 17 of those as a signed up member since I had to wait for signups to be open. Over that time I've paid a grand total of $5. I'm willing to pay a subscription fee, or a specialty fee like a "$10/year to ask as many askmefi questions as you want" fee. However, I'm not going to participate in the myriad of fundraiser drives / virtual bakesales / etc - I don't think that's a realistic way to run a (nominally) for-profit company. If that's the direction the site wants to go, I would recommend becoming an actual non-profit - one to which I would happily donate yearly.
posted by true at 7:10 AM on October 21, 2021 [19 favorites]


Becoming a non-profit organization seems to be off the table at this point.

Also - I'm imagining the many and varied "gentle explanations of MeFi culture" that would be hurled at the hapless new person with their shiny blue dot, once they post something "incorrect". Because you know they will. We all do.

I'm in favor of anything that will lighten up the site just a bit, there's a lot of piranha energy here and maybe some solid distraction in the form of new shiny happy light topics would help us swallow all these Very Serious Discussions of What Is Wrong With Metafilter.

How much per month would people pay to use a blink tag? Back in Ye Olde Past, I used a word processor that had a formatting option where words could be surrounded in blinking colored lights. It was super obnoxious and I loved it. I'd pay for that.
posted by Vatnesine at 7:34 AM on October 21, 2021 [10 favorites]


I don't care so much about the non-profit thing, but I do think it's at best amusing that in a discussion of how to welcome people in a community that's grown around discussion and connecting narrative/information to experience the conversation got thrown to how to limit conversation within the first few comments.

It reminds me of the joke about recipe comment sections where there's always a comment like "can I make this roast chicken without chicken? I'm vegetarian."

That's why a professional, preferably as external as possible, approach would be really beneficial. If people are largely joining (as opposed to visiting) for the links alone a "hide all comments" button would be a no-brainer, but I don't think research would bear that out.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:51 AM on October 21, 2021 [9 favorites]


I think any modification that limits or throttles or hides comments is completely backward for a site that is suffering from an ongoing drop-off in user activity (e.g., comments).
posted by Mid at 8:31 AM on October 21, 2021 [13 favorites]


Well, why do we need to provide new members with so much unsolicited advice about the site culture anyway? If they have read the community guidelines, microaggressions page, content policy, etc., why do we feel they need additional education? Do we want to keep existing/grow or do we want to run people off? Just wondering.
posted by all about eevee at 8:34 AM on October 21, 2021 [1 favorite]




Plans for growth - This is still an open discussion and includes making it easier for members to send out invites to their friends as well as promoting MetaFilter and the subsites externally.

I've been on this site for 20 years and finally just noticed that somewhere along the way, Twitter and Facebook sharing icons are available on each post. This is an easy way for "members to send out invites to their friends", but it's in the wrong location on the page.

I'd like to suggest that if those social sharing icons were moved to a more logical location, specifically on the "posted by" line, you'd see a lot more social sharing. Which drives more traffic to the site. Which yields more new members, and drives more ad revenue. Cost and complexity is just about zero, I would think. It's easily tested, just try it on a few posts a day for while.
posted by beagle at 9:14 AM on October 21, 2021 [12 favorites]


Here is a thing: I miss the frequent sidebar updates that had been going on. August there were a ton of them, then like a light switch, September and October only had the podcasts. I liked seeing what threads were being regarded as popular/interesting without having to check every one, so, here's a vote for making more use of the sidebar.
posted by JHarris at 10:26 AM on October 21, 2021 [14 favorites]


If it helps, here's a summary of what's been suggested so far, loosely ordered.

[33 items follow]


Deepest sympathies extended to all who have to attend MetaFilter staff meetings. That agenda right there is enough to kill every last brain cell.
posted by JanetLand at 12:46 PM on October 21, 2021 [15 favorites]


Mod note: Thank you all for the feedback and ideas so far. It is very clear that the path forward includes a mix of technical changes, content refinement and marketing efforts. I'll go over the summarized list with the team during this week's meeting.

Now, to define a marketing plan I do think that we do have the internal resources to work on this already since a lot of my background is in the Digital/Content/Brand Marketing realm. That being said the resources we have are limited so we need to prioritize the things that can give us the best results and don't require too much work.

I'll report on the progress of this both in this thread as well as in the new site updates.
posted by loup (staff) at 1:30 PM on October 21, 2021 [5 favorites]


I've been on this site for 20 years and finally just noticed that somewhere along the way, Twitter and Facebook sharing icons are available on each post...

I've literally never noticed that either, and now that I'm clicking around it seems to be only an option on metatalk? What's that about?

Also, not sure if this was an intentionally done, but it doesn't look like the official metafilter twitter has posted since 2019. We are barely found through google, we're not advertising/ sharing on social media, user linksharing is nonsensical - how the hell are people supposed to find us?
posted by Think_Long at 1:38 PM on October 21, 2021 [4 favorites]


Just a data point, but I tend not to use any sites' custom sharing buttons when I want to share a link somewhere. On desktop and mobile browsers, I have easy access to social media sharing functions right in the browser.
posted by emelenjr at 1:42 PM on October 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


ha, well TBH this is the only place that I post links so I'm probably not qualified on the best way to share links outwardly. Still seems confusing to me tho.
posted by Think_Long at 1:48 PM on October 21, 2021


How about trialling the throttling or turning off of mods for variable periods of time, save for auto-acting on comments that reach a specific flag threshold?
posted by peacay at 1:52 PM on October 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


Here is a thing: I miss the frequent sidebar updates that had been going on. August there were a ton of them, then like a light switch, September and October only had the podcasts. I liked seeing what threads were being regarded as popular/interesting without having to check every one, so, here's a vote for making more use of the sidebar.

Agreed, and this seems like it might be something that a group of volunteers could be deputized with.

I think overall, I love the idea of streamlining the membership process, I really don't like the idea of a badge for new users, but love the idea of a regular welcome thread.

I also think that true is correct above, when they say that the goals of high-quality discussion and low cost to users do appear to be at odds. I think this is why the non-profit or community-owned model seems to come up so often, because the business model we currently use does not appear to be able to meet our needs.

I wonder if a better or more appropriate goal for MetaFilter might be something more like sustainability. How can MeFi survive in some form with the current number of users? What about even fewer users? Does this mean some form of formalized subscription fee, maybe on some kind of sliding scale? A performance I recently saw offered three ticket prices: Standard, Pay It Forward, and Subsidized. The Pay It Forward was the same amount above the Standard price that the Subsidized price was below it. You were free to choose any price you wished to pay.

Or does it mean less moderation and/or technical solutions (slow mode, hiding comments on multiple flags, etc).

I also really REALLY like Rhaomi's suggestion of allowing users to have increased control over some self-defined portion of the site. I once suggested that every user should have the opportunity to create their own 'Filter in a "Labs" or "Experimental" section of the site.

Some of the suggestions above are going to be very hard to implement, but I think we are getting beyond the point where easy solutions are going to make a dent. At some point the community will have to roll the dice on some hard changes and hope the results are for the best. Making no changes (or small ones) does not guarantee the status quo.

Thank you, mods, for listening and for doing the hard work you do to create this space on a daily basis. It's about the only place I feel home on the Internet, and I'd hate to see it go.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:05 PM on October 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


As a suggestion for fundraising messages, it might be nice to try language like the following:

"To keep Metafilter running, our operating costs are $X per active member per month. We appreciate your contributions at any level you can afford. If you can contribute $2X per month, you'd help keep Metafilter running for one additional member who can't afford to contribute."

Obviously operating costs and active membership are both somewhat moving targets. It's clear the site can run at a variety of operation levels, but I think most of us aren't happy that the mod team has taken pay cuts to keep the site running, so I'd like to think that the total operating cost is what it would cost to make sure everyone is employed full-time with benefits, plus of course any other costs like hosting, legal consulting, etc.
posted by biogeo at 2:34 PM on October 21, 2021 [6 favorites]


it seems to be only an option on metatalk

It's on the blue also.
posted by beagle at 4:02 PM on October 21, 2021


1. I wish I could sometimes comment anonymously in Ask, so I don't build up a giant identifiable database about myself.
posted by xo at 4:40 PM on October 21, 2021 [23 favorites]


2. I think I could perhaps earn the right to comment anonymously if I had a history of good behavior.
posted by xo at 4:40 PM on October 21, 2021 [2 favorites]


If I understand correctly [and perhaps I'm mistaken] Ask gets far more traffic than the Blue? Maybe Ask and the Blue should switch places? So, when you go to MeFI, Ask is what you land on. /HERESY Also, the bar for participation in Ask is quite a bit lower- EVERYONE has a sticky interpersonal dilemma, a technical question about a thing, help IDing a dimly remembered book, etc. New users will have an easier time jumping in to using Ask vs. crafting a FPP for the Blue, so maybe it makes sense to put the more accessible and popular part of the site in the most forward position? (I don't have strong feelings about this myself, it's just an idea.)
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 5:00 PM on October 21, 2021 [10 favorites]


I really don't like the idea of a badge for new users

Nor do I. Won't this be a little beanie, embroidered with "Tenderfoot"?

...but love the idea of a regular welcome thread

Yeah that's great! The newbies' corner/page, in a new color?
    new.metafilter.com
A tradition of introducing yourself there might develop.
posted by Rash at 5:39 PM on October 21, 2021 [5 favorites]


Here is a thing: I miss the frequent sidebar updates that had been going on.

I think there are a lot of these sort of things that are a part of the site that people really like but that aren't quite part of the required-mod-job as some of the other parts (checking flags, email) and might be better if it were. That is, I think the mods here are top notch, best in the biz, in terms of community moderation (ymmv but that's my take) but not always at the forefront of community engagement which is a similar but not entirely the same thing. Also it's hard to do when things are hard, as they have been for a while now.

This means planting more seeds for things the community enjoys which can be contests, sidebars, newsletters, MetaTalkTails (which I think has been great but is in part of the site that only the hardcore folks visit) and the podcast onsite, but also maybe reaching outside of the community to do more social media engagement, share weird MeFi facts and posts and questions on Twitter (and engage there don't just have bot-driven content) and other places and have MeFi have a face online the same way cortex does for his own stuff.

None of this is intended to be a criticism of existing stuff, but the same way people really enjoy talking religion with Eyebrows, talking baseball with LM, talking nomic with cortex, or that kind of thing, people like to see the people who run the site ON the site. Moderation is part of that and I certainly understand why the MeTas are now more tightly controlled spaces, makes sense. But I'd personally like to see more mod (or other people who could make things happen - doesn't have to be mod team) presence ON the site making it fun and sharing it to the larger world as if is were a special thing that they loved.

Also I like the little blue dot idea, sort of a don't bite the newbs dot.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:20 PM on October 21, 2021 [18 favorites]


Mod note: I wish I could sometimes comment anonymously in Ask, so I don't build up a giant identifiable database about myself.

You may contact us and we can do that for you. :)
posted by loup (staff) at 8:15 PM on October 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


Would it be technically possible for the sidebar to have a (volunteer) guest editor at whatever interval? Highlighting great posts or comments seems less fraught than volunteer moderation, and a healthy sidebar makes the site look much more active.
posted by fedward at 8:19 PM on October 21, 2021 [10 favorites]

Technical changes
- We’re working on an “other media” category for FanFare. We are currently testing it and will share more details soon.
Are there any plans to overhaul the general structure of Fanfare alongside this change? I guess the new category will include games, but the current Fanfare site won't work for games.

To explain: Fanfare's front page lists posts chronologically, and TV series get a separate post for each episode. This means that TV shows are constantly bubbling to the top, but individual posts about books and movies get buried very quickly. There are links to pages with only posts about books or movies, and there's a link to posts sorted by most recent comment, but these are fiddly and almost hidden (especially on mobile, and the "most recent comment" option doesn't seem to exist at all on the mobile site) and there doesn't seem to be a way to see, for example, books sorted by most recent comment. Predictably, the movies part of Fanfare gets little engagement and the books part is basically dead.

Games are more like books in that they take a while to get through and people tend to come to them at different times, and probably want to talk about them while they're reading/playing. I suspect that if a new category including games is just added to Fanfare with no other changes, not many people are going to bother adding comments to old threads that nobody will see, or adding new posts that will just get buried in a day or two.

I think the obvious solution to this is: have separate parts of Fanfare for each type of media - or, even better for discoverability, different top-level parts of the site - with each part having posts sorted, at least by default, in a way that makes sense for the way people consume that type of media and they way they talk about it.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:37 PM on October 21, 2021 [3 favorites]


It's good to see these plans underway! But I really think the biggest problem is actually attracting new users, not the risk of getting too many or that they're too disruptive.

I think we should hold off on any measure that makes it harder or more inconvenient to post until there's evidence that it's actually necessary.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:05 AM on October 22, 2021 [17 favorites]


As a 10 year mostly lurker I would love a welcome thread and for more calls for fpps on a certain theme/ theme weeks - you feel more confident to contribute if you know people want to see more THING.
posted by MarianHalcombe at 4:44 AM on October 22, 2021 [14 favorites]


Yeah - I totally get why the sidebar is not a priority. But that's an example where to a casual visitor, it looks like here wasn't anything noteworthy or deemed noteworthy for two months except the podcast. That's what I mean about an outside perspective.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:08 AM on October 22, 2021 [8 favorites]


TheophileEscargot: "But I really think the biggest problem is actually attracting new users, not the risk of getting too many or that they're too disruptive. "

Yes. Having too many users is what we call a 'good problem'.
posted by signal at 6:21 AM on October 22, 2021 [9 favorites]


it seems to be only an option on metatalk

It's on the blue also.


Egg on my face, there is a 'hide share links' box in preferences that was hiding them on all but metatalk for me.
posted by Think_Long at 7:02 AM on October 22, 2021


Egg on my face, there is a 'hide share links' box in preferences that was hiding them on all but metatalk for me.

That would be one preference settings option to remove. If they icons migrate to the "posted by" line, nobody is going to be bothered by them (they are on every other media site) but they will be there if you ever get the urge to share something.
posted by beagle at 8:02 AM on October 22, 2021 [1 favorite]


Call me old fashioned, but the lack of "social" being shoved forcefully into my life on Mefi is one of the reasons I like Mefi. Then again, I think my various browser extensions should just not render those icons if they exist, so, no loss to me in particular.
posted by Alterscape at 9:38 AM on October 22, 2021 [12 favorites]


I think the obvious solution to this is: have separate parts of Fanfare for each type of media - or, even better for discoverability, different top-level parts of the site - with each part having posts sorted, at least by default, in a way that makes sense for the way people consume that type of media and they way they talk about it.

Something like that view already exists, but it's not the default. You can find it in the secondary navigation along with "My Fanfare"--it's a navigation bar on desktop, and a drop-down selector in the mobile size. It shows you shows / movies / etc with recent comments, and lets you go to a full list for that media type (though that media type is still organized by original post date, not most recent comment).

It's not perfect and I think it needs a little design love before it's ready to replace the chronological view as the default, but it's there.

(I also would love a dedicated "games" category in Fanfare. I really want to talk about Metroid Dread with y'all.)
posted by thecaddy at 10:47 AM on October 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


I NEED a games category omg! Already thinking about loving posts I could make there. And I agree that TV shows get bumped the most so a minor revamp could be necessary.

Has thought gone into highlighting these other parts of the sites like Music and FanFare by a repeatable every few months post to the front page? Highlight what they are for the uninitiated, and maybe in the comments ask for people to post their fav current links in those categories? With one write up on each subside, they could be posted with regularity to draw people in.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:17 AM on October 22, 2021 [3 favorites]


I wish I could sometimes comment anonymously in Ask
The site deserves a $5 contribution; make a sockpuppet. When I think of a fun user name or sockpuppet, I pay my $5 and set up the account. It's more amusing than a direct contribution. Mods can figure it out because they use some sort of spooky divination tools, but I'm not trying to be genuinely anonymous, just don't want certain posts/ comments associated with me.
posted by theora55 at 11:50 AM on October 22, 2021 [11 favorites]


Haven't read most of this thread, and am only responding to the limiting of comments in the blue idea. For reference, i rarely comment on the blue and have never posted, despite being an active member for over 15 years. This is just a random idea, no idea how good/bad it is, but what the heck, i'll throw it out there.

One of the most interesting things i've noticed lately is the adoption and usage of "pre-canned" replies to help with psychological safety in commenting situations. For example, in my very corporate work slack, very few people can post or comment in the all-company, 10k+ member slack channel. But anyone can react to the posts with our very large collection of emoji. It's pretty interesting how creative people can get, and its also very clear the sentiment from the group on the topic, reacting just via emoji alone. But it's also almost impossible to create controversy via emoji and emoji counts. But if 1000 people are posting a thumbs down and a pukey face, it's pretty obvious the group isn't happy!

In metafilter speak, this is basically a huge rehaul of the favourites system for posts. So, not trivial. But by providing many ways to react via emoji while limiting actual comments per user, I wonder if you could change the mood of the blue's commentary without really limiting people's opportunities to contribute.
posted by cgg at 1:15 PM on October 22, 2021 [2 favorites]


cgg: providing many ways to react via emoji while limiting actual comments per user

👎 🙁
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:53 PM on October 22, 2021 [13 favorites]


Something like that view already exists, but it's not the default. You can find it in the secondary navigation along with "My Fanfare"--it's a navigation bar on desktop, and a drop-down selector in the mobile size. It shows you shows / movies / etc with recent comments, and lets you go to a full list for that media type (though that media type is still organized by original post date, not most recent comment).

There's this view as well, although it's also full of episodic stuff (presumably because the default view encourages this) and for some reason doesn't seem to be reachable on the mobile site.

The Dune post is a good example of what I mean. Dune is going to be in cinemas here in December. When I finally get to see it, I could add a comment to the existing post - but almost nobody would see it, so what's the point? Or I could make a new post, but it would be missing all of the stuff in the current thread and would just get buried by episodic stuff in a day or two anyway. So I don't bother with Fanfare.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:38 PM on October 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


FWIW, FanFare posts stay open indefinitely, and later comments there will be seen in Recent Activity for everyone who commented previously (or added it to RA manually). Slower than an active post, but not shouting into the void either. I've seen plenty of asynchronous discussion play out months after a post originally went up.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:32 PM on October 22, 2021 [4 favorites]


Then how about this, admins/mods: instead of just adding "other media" to fanfare, run an experiment. Add a new "Games" top-level area to the site, with the default view sorting by most recent comment. The infrastructure is already mostly there for this, right? If that works (and I bet it will), consider making similar changes to other parts of Fanfare.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:45 PM on October 22, 2021 [2 favorites]


Let me first say that I’m at heart fairly conservative when it comes to the way this site functions. Not only because I’m used to it, but also because I think most of the ways it does are fairly intuitive (with a few exceptions, like the weeklong cooldown period for AskMe posts). Users make posts and comments, and that’s mostly it, and that’s fine.

However, one thing I’ve noticed is deeply unintuitive for people who I’ve shown the site is the way the default display privileges just one subsite. Whether you go to metafilter.com or ask.metafilter.com or music.metafilter.com or whatever, you just get shown the one subsite. The view is very information rich, and it’s not at all obvious that the small buttons up top take you to completely different sub sites with completely different remits.

So my suggestion is that the default view for people not signed in shows more than just the Blue, but also the various subsites. It could be a simple splash page with short descriptions of MetaFilter, AskMe, Fanfare, and so on. Or, at least on desktop, the screen could be divided into boxes showing each site as it is.

This community has a lot to offer, but potential new users have to dig around persistently to find it.
posted by Kattullus at 11:21 PM on October 22, 2021 [9 favorites]


Oh, and one more thing, I absolutely favor a moderation policy of coming down like a box of anvils on MeFi lifers giving new users a hard time.
posted by Kattullus at 11:25 PM on October 22, 2021 [17 favorites]


Would the mods consider creating a landing page for MetaFilter.com please? You could signpost the subsites, the signup process, key pages, announcements and address many of the other things that are being requested here. On the landing page you could possibly then allow logged in users to set their favorite subsite as Home.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:03 AM on October 23, 2021 [3 favorites]


Oops sorry, yes similar to what’s just been suggested above!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:05 AM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]


I would like a place to post suggestions for FPPs that I know I myself am not informed enough to write.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:22 AM on October 23, 2021 [6 favorites]


To develop a user growth plan, I think one possible benefit of getting input from an outside resource is that they are less likely to be biased towards things they want from the site. Presumably any improvement to the site could indirectly increase users somehow, even though most won’t in any meaningful way. This thread is mostly a list of pony requests that seem unlikely to do anything to bring in new users. A more serious thread about user growth might include a request that each suggestion include an explanation of how the change would actually bring in new users.
posted by snofoam at 8:54 AM on October 23, 2021 [5 favorites]


I don’t comment much, and I’m not hugely involved socially with Metafilter, but I am hugely invested emotionally, this place has been a needed anchor in my life for many years. It’s been over a year since I last donated though, so I just put some more money down for the site. So damned many things come down to money.
posted by notoriety public at 12:53 PM on October 23, 2021 [4 favorites]


a place to post suggestions for FPPs that I know I myself am not informed enough to write

Requests!

req.metafilter.com

Implementation: probably tricky.
posted by Rash at 3:03 PM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]


Or, normalize single-link posts.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 3:23 PM on October 23, 2021 [5 favorites]


Why not both?
posted by Night_owl at 6:25 PM on October 23, 2021 [1 favorite]


I don't think that wanting a potentially tricky topic to receive a FPP but not feeling qualified to set it up is necessarily only a function of envisioning a multi link post, though. Selecting the best central link of all available options and framing a post to minimize hackles and avoid wrongfooting folks can both be things that are hard to do unless you know where the most likely sore spots are, and that tends to be a function of topic familiarity.

That said, I am ambivalent about crowdsourcing FPPs because I am just generally very wary of talking about topics that require that level of framing finesse here right now. I've spent a lot of energy in this space trying to do that in the past and I have gotten burnt a lot trying to do it, and the idea of trying to help more people do that and investing myself pre-emptively in the result makes me flinch.
posted by sciatrix at 6:28 PM on October 23, 2021 [4 favorites]


I'm in favor of encouraging more single-link posts. There are some places on the internet that are cool, we should bring those here and then we can all make clever/admiring comments about them. FPPs like that are easy to create and they don't require too much "framing finesse". Maybe this could be a theme week: Shiny Happy People Sharing Single-Link Posts. Or something, you know, that a clever person would write. I do acknowledge that a lot of posts are single-link.

The whole concept of framing finesse (thank you sciatrix) is useful for shaping arguments, and I'm trying to avoid arguments, thank you very much. I know I am not alone in this. I thought that the political megathreads were terrible for this reason, the FPPs themselves were giant angry collections of angry political links, and the angry link-heavy comments were like being in a shouty argumentative room. Perhaps posters like to argue, and admittedly the world is on fire. But lots of this has made us jumpy and edgy and suspicious and now we all think the river is full of piranhas and we no longer wish to swim.

Now: a qualifier. I am distinctly *not* looking to criticize what I would call a Wordshore-style FPP, where each link is a tiny jewel in a FPP-shaped tiara.
posted by Vatnesine at 9:15 PM on October 23, 2021 [4 favorites]


Look I've said it before and I think a lot of other member just don't feel like voicing their opinions again:

- No rate limiting or other non-sense. We're trying to encourage more participation here. Sorry if it isn't what you like not everyone can like the Woody Allen movie where he's standing in line and pulls in the directory. We're going to get some stupid comments. NOTE I do not mean misogynist, racist or otherwise offensive comments. Think Michael Scott, I'd rather have a few of those I can scroll through than a draconian UN style commenting procedure.

- Please, for the love of god make not logged in look like logged in. Right now not-logged in looks dated. Frankly if I didn't know Metafilter I wouldn't want to signup even if it was free. Notice how every other site has the logged in experience pretty much the same except you're logged in? That' what people expect and they don't want to pay $5 expecting a 2009 website.

- The page and pages on microaggression and what the site is about is intimidating at best and condescending at worst. Even the signup form is intimidating. I'd rather have 1,000 good new members and a handful of duds than a continual decline. I find the whole signup process now off putting and screams "this site is not for you" to a large majority of people. Don't read that as people want to be bad actors, they just don't want to understandably join a community that judges everything someone say or doesn't say.

- Deletions are harsh and off putting. And I agree with the deletions. A good example being the Alec Baldwin thread being derailed by his past actions. Yes I think it had nothing to do with the thread and was a distraction. There must be someway to steer the thread in a way that doesn't include deletion. Many people here have expressed being intimidated by posting because of actions like this, and these are people active and engaged in the site. Maybe a nice prod in the direction of the user would be easier. I know moderating is difficult and it is much easier to delete and say "Stop it," but maybe there's another way? Personal note to the user? Slight comment to keep it on topic? I don't know the answer only if I was a new user I'd be pissed. I'm an old user and I sometimes get pissed. Again, I know the mod job is tough but increasing participation will mean letting go of some things.

- Finally there's been a distinct lack in diverse topics lately. There's been no sports topics, tech topics have even died down. I would not mind more fun or silly buzzfeed type posts. Not everything has to be a grad school dissertation. I think what people mean by theme topics is the freedom to not construct a thesis.
posted by geoff. at 1:57 AM on October 24, 2021 [16 favorites]


- Deletions are harsh and off putting.

This has been an issue for a long time, but it feels like deletion has ramped up a lot in the last couple of years, and more and more thoughtful, constructive and relevant comments (by other people) seem to just vanish, apparently because they didn't fit with someone's idea of which way a particular conversation should be heading. I think the mods have really, really underestimated how strongly this sends a message of "go away, you aren't welcome here".
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:04 AM on October 24, 2021 [28 favorites]


Vatnesine: I'm in favor of encouraging more single-link posts

We used to have Flash Fridays, why not Single-link Sundays?
posted by Kattullus at 4:21 AM on October 24, 2021 [4 favorites]


Every week I think about how much I miss Flash Friday.
posted by mittens at 5:40 AM on October 24, 2021 [6 favorites]


Reading these threads sometimes brings to mind the fable about pigs and chickens starting a bacon and eggs place. The chickens are bullish: "We can bring so many eggs to the table! What could possibly go wrong? My friend is an expert in interior design" While the pigs shave their slices ever thinner.

I think this thread and others demonstrate that there is/remains a lot of energy and goodwill in the community, as well as many worthwhile ideas & expertise. But if Metafilter is a small community, then MetaTalk is an even smaller community. And if the goal is ultimately to find a responsible growth strategy that will sustain the business and the community over time — to be inclusive — then I think it's unlikely for that growth strategy to be coming from MetaTalk, arguably the most impenetrable among the already (but also, charmingly) impenetrable Metafilter properties (e.g. there are only about 75 commentators in this thread with the top 10 accounting for about a third of the comments).

On the one hand, I generally feel that once a business needs consultants to tell them what business they're in, the business is flailing. On the other hand I feel like it's better to flail than to quietly go under. Unless the plan is to keep cutting down to the bone I think it's time for the management to commission a team of outside professionals to research and articulate a comprehensive strategy for growth, and commit to it.
posted by dmh at 7:49 AM on October 24, 2021 [8 favorites]


So I made a post today and tagged it singlelinksunday.

Just seeing if I can make fetch happen.
posted by Kattullus at 10:09 AM on October 24, 2021 [12 favorites]


Here's a wild suggestion: we should delete Jobs.

Besides being a total ghost town (13 posts so far this year), Jobs doesn't really fit in with the rest of MetaFilter (sharing and discussing things). It also gives a terrible first impression – if I were new to the site and clicked "Jobs" (one of the most prominent links in the main menu) I would just think "wow, this site is dead" and leave.

Removing it would free up mod resources and nav menu space, and inconvenience almost no one. There are a thousand other places on the internet that do job postings better than MetaFilter can, and that's fine.
posted by oulipian at 10:30 AM on October 24, 2021 [41 favorites]


I 100% agree with the idea of commissioning outside professionals.

I also will reiterate again my idea from two years ago of eliminating the moderators altogether. Not only would that money be much better spent on hiring professionals who can lead growth and fundraising, but also having staff composed (nearly) exclusively of moderators leads to a leadership that resents activity and comments as work and a burden. We need leadership that sees activity as a positive good to be sought at almost any cost.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:04 PM on October 24, 2021 [3 favorites]


I will say I am glad to see that leadership is openly talking about "growth strategies" -- I think that's the first time I've seen leadership explicitly admit that Metafilter's decline in activity (and not just revenue) is a problem and that they plan to do something about it. Admitting there's a problem is the first step.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:13 PM on October 24, 2021 [2 favorites]


I don’t think moving away from paid moderation entirely is something that would be considered, but I think it is valuable to consider a big change like this. A less drastic change might be to halve the moderation staff in order to invest in growth and have staff with a variety of perspectives and goals.

How would moderation work in this scenario? Maybe moderation would be less active, but penalties for seriously breaking guidelines would be more severe. I feel like the most important moderation task is making sure that hateful/offensive/etc stuff is not allowed. It seems like flagging plus faster timeout/banhammer could deal with this with a smaller mod team.

And if the growth strategy worked, then full-time moderation could be reinstated once there are enough users/revenue to support it. The goal is not to get rid of mods, it is to free up resources for growth/survival. Mods just happen to be the only thing that could be cut to free up those resources.
posted by snofoam at 2:21 PM on October 24, 2021 [2 favorites]


Kattullus: "So I made a post today and tagged it singlelinksunday."

While I fully support this–I think it's quite fetch–I would like to point out that single link posts are OK whenever and they always have been.
posted by signal at 8:41 AM on October 25, 2021 [5 favorites]


Mod note: Thank you all for the feedback. I've been bringing it up to the team and well have more updates next week.
posted by loup (staff) at 12:33 PM on October 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


If I understand correctly [and perhaps I'm mistaken] Ask gets far more traffic than the Blue?

I've never much read either the Gray or the Blue. But for years the Green has been for me, as I usually put it, like "the most interesting magazine in the world." So I'd endorse the above suggestions for directing more traffic to Ask.

Until this week I was unaware of any issues with money, membership, etc. I'd be glad to make regular contributions, using the "Sustaining Member" model, i.e., regular withdrawals from my bank account (or credit card). I don't like having to keep track of annual deadlines, nor to take someone's word that it's been a year and it's time to contribute again.

That said, I'll make a contribution now. ... Whoops! Just scrolled up and I don't see any link to make a contribution. Maybe I'll look for one on some other page?

All the best,
Jim
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]


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