MeFi Community Mission Statement January 6, 2022 11:46 AM   Subscribe

There's been some good discussion lately about being a decent human being on the site and a spate of good posts, and it's got me thinking about whether we could (or should) come up with a kind of mission statement as a community.

I emphasize the community aspect, this is not meant to be a statement for MeFi as a business or even necessarily inform the mods' work, it's meant to be about what the users of MeFi see as the value and goals of our interactions on the site.
If this makes sense, could we workshop a brief text here? I'd probably include something about 'making the internet a weirder and nicer place'.
posted by signal to MetaFilter-Related at 11:46 AM (44 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Mod note: Chiming in to note that the first paragraph of the MeFi Community Guidelines were written with that in mind, in case that serves the conversation in this thread. Please go on. :)
posted by loup (staff) at 11:50 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]

Hmmmmm! I would bet that a survey of a hundred MeFites chosen at random, about why we participate and the purpose of the site, would show several disparate clusters of answers. General entertainment, sharing information, shooting the breeze about whatever comes up, fun (to create for/with others), asking for and giving advice about specific problems and opportunities, getting publicity for stuff we've made...
posted by brainwane at 12:19 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]

This is a noble goal and I support this conversation. I hope that you will thus forgive me for linking this Onion piece:
Nonprofit Cofounders Have Screaming Match Over Whether Mission To Ignite Change Or Spark Community Impact
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:32 PM on January 6 [19 favorites]

I would add talking about what is truly important to brainwane's list.
posted by y2karl at 12:51 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]

What would be the goal of such a mission statement?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:29 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]

To amplify loup: I found my own recent re-read of the Guidelines eye-opening - I discovered that (in my interpretation, at least), pretty much all of the kinds of comments that have been troubling people (as reflected in MetaTalk posts) are covered in the guidelines - especially "add your own informed perspective and nuance instead of shutting others down" and "Respond appropriately to people's mood and investment in a topic." Plus, of course, the essential "Be respectful."

It's a really well-written, thoughtful, carefully crafted set of guidelines!

I wonder whether heavily highlighting and promoting the items in the guidelines might help bring the community closer to embodying those guidelines - maybe featuring a different item every week on a banner, or something.

There are a lot of problematic comments I've seen but not flagged because I didn't realize they were actually covered by the guidelines - sometimes I've given in to thinking that disrespectful behavior is permitted and acceptable here.

Now that I know better, I feel like I have a better sense of when to flag something that is shutting down the conversation or harming the community.

If you haven't re-read the guidelines lately, I highly recommend it.
posted by kristi at 2:29 PM on January 6 [17 favorites]

I think in some ways, my view of our mission is implied, but not covered, by the reason for the guidelines. I see our mission as creating a community where individuals share knowledge, experience, and connection to prevent community members from feeling alone (in our thoughts, in our experiences, and in our needs). Sometimes someone needs our empathy, sometimes they need to learn from our empathy.

But yeah, the weirder and nicer bit, too.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:37 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]

Isn't this a situation where we're supposed to put out a tender, hire consultants, hold some focus groups, undertake community consultation then get legal to check the final draft before we publish, then ignore, something?
posted by dg at 5:54 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]

Doing this isn't my thing, but if y'all do want to do this, keep it short and sweet please. Something like:
"Don't be an asshole. If you slip up and are an asshole, keep it short, apologize, and then strive to do better. Metafilter is messy and imperfect place, but it's a place where many good things have happened. Please try to maintain a space where many other good things can happen."
That's all I got, I'm out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:10 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]

I suggest all nautical terminology be reviewed for committee approval with a emphasis of general attraction versus promotion gravitas.
posted by clavdivs at 10:00 PM on January 6

Just a humble riff on what's been raised in the thread so far, with elements of the Guidelines, and using the M-word:

"Our mission is to foster positive conversations, build community, and share all the good things the internet makes possible. We do this while supporting and connecting participants who bring to the table an impressive diversity of life experiences."

Aside: Personally I have been through a _lot_ of depressing corporate environments, some with mission statements and some where raising the very idea would result in mockery. But in terms of proactive, forward-facing, executive focus, :-) I gotta admit I appreciate the good ol' fashioned utility of being able to point and say, "look, right there is our mission statement," at which point a thousand more subjective-values-reconciliation conversations are rendered less-necessary, and a thousand other "I'm the exception to whatever our covert social contract says" issues are also headed off at the pass.
posted by circular at 11:18 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]

In my experience writing mission statements is a fun, interesting activity that makes no difference to anything.
posted by Phanx at 4:23 AM on January 7 [20 favorites]

How about a Guidelines link directly under the comment box?
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:33 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]

"Internet, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the website, MetaFilter. Its continuing mission: to seek out the best of the web and new conversations, TO BOLDLY POST WHERE NO ONE HAS POSTED BEFORE."

Done and dusted.
posted by briank at 6:57 AM on January 7 [9 favorites]

metafilter: "a fun, interesting activity that makes no difference to anything"?
(said affectionately, partly genuinely - it's what keeps bringing me back!)
posted by gaybobbie at 7:13 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]

Metafilter: a spate of good posts.
posted by michaelh at 9:01 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

I think the Guidelines link could be promoted (from the "links" list in the footer of the page) to the nav bar at the top -- maybe right after Home and FAQ ?
posted by churl at 1:08 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]

one of the better writers here should write one, have it placed in a glass bottle like those little ships then auction it with a NFT attachment bonus then hold a contest to guess said mission statement with the winner getting that thread NFT or facsimile poster sized print out and a t-shirt or coffee mug.

Are T-shirts still available?

No snark, no thaumatology, no double entundre.

committee of 3 to 5. A Submission thread so every one can have a say because it should the best damn, serio-funny stuffed with truisms, faults and 3/4 soul.
posted by clavdivs at 3:11 PM on January 7

someone call Sting and Miguel or have Miguel call Sting.
posted by clavdivs at 3:12 PM on January 7

Metafilter: serio-funny stuffed with truisms, faults and 3/4 soul.

(I simply couldn't resist)
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:04 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]

Mission Statement Impossible.
posted by y2karl at 4:10 PM on January 7

Saw this one around town:

Start a discussion, not a fire. Post with kindness.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:02 PM on January 7 [7 favorites]

Start a discussion, not a fire

If that's not a first line I will wear a John Adams wig. Giving this thought, metafilter consensus seems oddly consistent with questions, some of the very idea. I'm leaning that a conventional one seems rather guidelinesish

but a unique one would do something.
signal, can only speak me but no disrespect is intended by my words. Thing is the metafilter gauntlet of old slowly changed but that's life, were getting older and hopefully more relevant because of late post have been fantastic, sorry but I notice these things.

spate of good posts, and it's got me thinking

that is it, sorry but that is the foundation to build. So I take the comments here as "smocking" which in it's internet's wonderment is an endearment I believe most of is understand and thats the magic. because paternalistic pippings paupnauty peaks peoples perception Post hoc ergo propter hoc postulated post paw person.

I vote meatbomb on committee.
posted by clavdivs at 8:28 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]

You can tell which of us have worked in enterprises that required the pointless busywork of making "mission statements." I'm on team "what would be the point?" for metafilter to add to the noise?
posted by spitbull at 4:39 AM on January 8 [8 favorites]

...because paternalistic pippings paupnauty peaks peoples perception Post hoc ergo propter hoc postulated post paw person.

Possibly pre-post hoc posturing, but from the shape of the mushroom sauce cloud, the Meatbomb has apparently exploded, not with a Pow! but a piffle and we all now are pâté.
posted by y2karl at 4:42 AM on January 8

because paternalistic pippings paupnauty peaks peoples perception Post hoc ergo propter hoc postulated post paw person.

...I'll have what they're having...
posted by From Bklyn at 5:18 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]

Maybe we could have a randomly selected daily tag line, from the (I'm sure) thousands that have been created over the years? It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but I adore the "Metafilter: [insert quote from comment]" trope, and it would be a nice little chuckle when one opened the site each time.

I seem to recall someone compiled them at one point, so the mods wouldn't have to do too much digging to get a decent list to start us off.

I know little of coding, but perhaps this wouldn't be too time consuming to automate?
posted by ananci at 9:15 AM on January 8 [5 favorites]

you're wrong! no you're wrong!
posted by box at 11:36 AM on January 8

I suggest all nautical terminology be reviewed for committee approval with a emphasis of general attraction versus promotion gravitas.

Very Little Gravitas Indeed
posted by GCU Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall at 1:27 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]

Awwww come on. The very act of writing one creates, or re creates, a culture focused on some _kind_ of idea or purpose.

Put another way: do you want to actually live like you have a mission, or just randomly do stuff until you die?

I really want to know some points that some of our mods and/or Cortex feel are at the heart of what they do and why they do it. And why you, me, anyone participates here.

Maybe we don't have to come up with one overarching mission statement, but it would be nice to have people articulate their individual purposes and hopes. We are good people who want to help each other and, if we can, to make the world a little bit better. Why not say it out loud?
posted by amtho at 6:23 PM on January 8

Start a discussion, not a fire. In days past, you're wrong! no you're wrong! [insert quote from comment] but it would be nice to have { a space were } people articulate their individual purposes and hopes.
posted by clavdivs at 6:57 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]

I really want to know ... why you, me, anyone participates here.

I mean, "randomly doing stuff" here (or at least, participating without explicitly defined goals) has suited me perfectly fine for 13+ years, and I doubt I'm alone. As far as the folks running the site, they've already done and continue to do a lot of work to clarify what Metafilter is about. Do folks feel something is missing from that?

If this idea is specifically aimed at the user base, I'm willing to guess that there are too many disparate individual notions of purpose already in existence for any sort of "mission statement" to encompass them all without being either restrictive/exclusionary, or so broad as to be useless. So I come back to my question above: what is the desired goal of a user mission statement?
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:36 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]

I am (very slightly) concerned that, if such a statement is created by the handful of members who happen to participate in this thread (and who happen to be persuasive in that conversation), that some members will take the resulting statement to be somehow official and binding.

I mean, if people find value in this exercise, then by all means go ahead – but since the statement would merely be the opinion of a small minority of the user base, I'm not really sure what the purpose is.

Or: what Greg_Ace just said.

To be honest: I think mission statements, by their very nature, are somewhat exclusionary. Each individual has their own values, and their own reasons for participating in a site/company/whatever. Issuing a mission statement feels like trying to impose one set of values and reasons (notably, those held by the sort of people who like participating in mission-statement committees) on the community at large.

For example, I know that I never appreciate it when my company tells me what my values and reasons are.

So, like I said – it's obviously not my place to discourage anyone from doing this, but I hope folks will remember that it's just a fun exercise, not the writing of The Official Constitution of MetaFilter. I'll shut up now.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:08 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]

Doing this isn't my thing, but if y'all do want to do this, keep it short and sweet please.

I've been reflecting, in the last year, on why I enjoy Defector's community in a way that I haven't enjoyed a community online in a hot minute, and it struck me how their breezy-but-smart guide on How to comment on Defector is a huge part of that—the "breezy" part as much as the "smart" part.

These two paragraphs in particular feel like a kind of Gordian knotcut:
You are not allowed to post bigoted shit in the comments. “Bigoted shit” is defined however whichever Defector staffperson happens to be looking at your comment defines it; err on the side of extreme caution. [...]

You are not allowed to give other commenters a hard time. Everybody down there paid for the privilege, and you are not permitted to spoil it for others. If you think some doofus’s comment sucks, leave it alone. If you see abusive behavior down there, email a Defector staffer and flag it for us. We do not need vigilantes.
Though obviously the real tone is set right here:
A good rule of thumb is this: If you can imagine a smart and good-smelling reader—one who has never heard of you before and has no particular curiosity about your thoughts simply by virtue of their having originated inside your brain—reading your comment and then thinking, “Dang, I’m really glad I scrolled down and checked out the comments,” then it is a good comment and you should post it. If the only person you can imagine reading your comment and having that thought is someone who has a power drill sticking out of the side of their head, then it is a bad comment and you should not post it.
Defector is not a hallowed institution by any means, and has had a couple of eyebrow-raising moments—fitting for the bastard grandchild of Gawker, really—but one thing that's really struck me is how, when one of its writers does post a shitty thing, the response tends to be a very succinct community reaction of "Geez, this sucks!" followed by a return to good-natured-ness all around. The profound lack of heaviness really struck me: if we assume that people are fallible and will do shit to piss other people off, maybe what matters isn't trying to reduce the probability of that event to the impossible Zero, but figuring out the best way of moving from the Moment of Shittiness back to things being nice?

MetaFilter doesn't lack for deep, considered thought about human decency. If anything, it's lacking in easy-breezy.
posted by rorgy at 5:16 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]

Maybe we could have a randomly selected daily tag line, from the (I'm sure) thousands that have been created over the years?

We sorta had that for a while. IIRC it was in a bubble underneath the MetaFilter logo in the upper left of the screen.

MetaFilter: The it's okay to like

...was one of them, in case that contextualizes the era for ya.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:42 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]

MetaFilter: Now Kitty Foreman approved! *embarrassed stilted awkward giggle*
posted by y2karl at 11:17 AM on January 9

The very act of writing one creates, or re creates, a culture focused on some _kind_ of idea or purpose

True, but very frequently mission statements fail to match outcomes. Outcomes are the only things that matter.
posted by scruss at 12:55 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

what is the desired goal of a user mission statement?

A good question, and one which we will need a mission statement mission statement to answer properly.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:08 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]

MetaFilter is a web site on the Internet which aspires to have a community. Many people use MetaFilter, some of whom are different than the others, but all of them, in the end, use MetaFilter, and that is what matters. In this essay, I will ask about what MetaFilter is, and think about some of the people who use it, and what MetaFilter means to them, so that we can reach a conclusion on MetaFilter that can be agreed upon by everybody in its community.

To begin with, what does it mean to be a community that is a web site? The first web site was invented in 1978,
posted by rorgy at 8:23 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

...(waits patiently and eagerly for rest of essay)
posted by cynical pinnacle at 11:08 AM on January 10

I think the Defector mod notes point out something essential that's missing from the guidelines, which is on my mind a lot these days. I'm not sure how to refer to it exactly, but if I translate the Defector mod notes through MeFi wording, a guideline such as this would be appreciated and in support of the OP "mission statement" point. So, then, one value and goal that I imagine MeFi believes in, with an example explanation:

MeFi values dissimilarity, and should be a safe place for it.

"There will always be conflicts between the approaches different people use when participating. It's okay to acknowledge those tensions, but it's not okay to prosecute them. If someone else's approach is getting on your nerves, it's fine to disregard their thread, and/or report it as a problem to the mods, and/or to take a break from the discussion. But please don't tell them to stop being like that, that their approach is wrong, or evangelize your approach. Make yourself understood without trying to persuade. Let disagreements exist without trying to resolve them. If you see something unacceptable, write us a modmail and explain why it matters to you and how you wish we'd intervene, so that we can consider not only how to respond in that one thread but also how to respond in all threads."

(I'm trying to gesture at a concept, not propose my words be incorporated into the site principles, so please don't take this as a literal suggestion to be copy-pasted, that's not what it's meant to be at all.)
posted by Callisto Prime at 12:19 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]

And never forget

MetaFilter: Previously much now rides upon the collective spindly shoulders.
posted by y2karl at 4:22 PM on January 10

I think mission statements should be written as goals and intentions, not as descriptions of the current state.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 5:43 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Well, I liked the part (several years ago) where a MeFite on a road trip lost their cat at a restaurant on a freeway somewhere back east. They were frantic. Within a couple of hours, another MeFite found the cat, and arranged a successful meetup with its human! Yes! Doubleplusgood Yes!

Other than that, I like the part where the site encourages civility via a corps of hard-working mods. A mission statement is all well and good--thanks for that--but nuts and bolts keep the machine going.
posted by mule98J at 10:50 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

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