Hive Mind replacing WireCutter? February 2, 2022 5:20 PM   Subscribe

This seems like a huge opportunity that the MeFi empire should jump on. was a comment made about Wirecutter becoming useless. I agree with the sentiment. Any way to make this happen?
posted by dobbs to Feature Requests at 5:20 PM (48 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

My main thought offhand is that MeFi (situationally, mostly AskMe) is a good place to get suggestions for products and such—detailed responses to particular questions, no spam, no data tracking or stealth product promotion bullshit—but that's not the same thing as an editorial project of the kind and scale as something like Wirecutter. Doing that sort of thing right would involve dedicated resources that we do not remotely have as a business.

I think it might be more useful to say, with what we do have, how could we make that more visible or work better as a place to browse? Is there a smaller scope of thing, that could be reasonably user-driven, to organize the kinds of shopping/recommendation stuff that already happens on the site? What would that look like? How would it be managed, and what's the minimal sort of infrastructure that'd need to be put together to support it?
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:26 PM on February 2 [10 favorites]


Yeah the MeFi Wiki used to have some really good lists of suggested products under the GiftIdeas heading (maybe elsewhere) but it's super out of date. I go there when I'm looking for some eduring stuff ideas tho.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:54 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


If you realllly love a product, would it go in Fanfare?

(I mean, a new section would be better, but no way am I going to suggest that.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:19 PM on February 2


Somewhat relevant:

It looks like this Recent Amazon Links page from early 2014 still keeps itself up to date.

(I think 2013 was the only year in which a Popular Amazon Items in Comments list was compiled? No, wait -- there are two more years' worth at the surely forgotten labs.metafilter.com landing page.)

(What other secret passageways and forgotten back rooms are still lying about here?)
posted by nobody at 8:30 PM on February 2 [6 favorites]


We're a maze of twisty passages, all alike. I do like the idea of tweaking the old Amazon Lab pages as a least effort kind of thing.

For the bespoke version, the closest thing we have to shopping recommendations is the Mall. Maybe it could have a factory outlet? We already have products sold by Mefites, some categorized recommendations derived from Ask wouldn't be the worst thing. I imagine it should be outward facing, sort of a Best of MeFi (Shameless Commerce Division).

It doesn't have to and shouldn't be artificial or forced, just something that gets built up over time. The trick would be curating it - it'd have to be stuff that's pretty unambiguously great. (Look, I've seen what some of us weirdos think. We can't be trusted.) And how would we submit stuff? Some combination of Best Answer / Flagged as Fantastic? The Resolved tag? The other hard part of curating things is culling - how do we drop stuff when it's no good?
posted by zamboni at 8:43 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Not sure how a site that doesn't allow images would work for general audiences.

Although I guess there are workarounds. Behold my recommendation for best portable computer of 1985: posted by roger ackroyd at 9:27 PM on February 2 [38 favorites]


I see beancutter.com is already taken.
posted by michaelh at 10:11 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]


create a new tag (#product review/tested/etc) for an Ask say it's from the Amazon lab, generally media. best answer or relevant answer gets the tag.
search metafilter #product%✓√¥.
So The Mall, Labs, gift ideas, existing gears tweek discussion sorta the point.

so on preview, I see Roger ackroyds typewriter so I'll leave the above in draft form. don't.

One of the things that is cool about metafilter is when a post on something is made and gets knowledgeable response. tech, a book, music, spacecraft or a post about (noun) that turns into a sort live post,
posts were folk turn up and say oh by the way. (this is to say;) Won't toss links or bandy names but damn. A call to papers, a chin wag. If your going to direct metafilter content to more accessible 'markets' you need more content and that needs to be created rather then curated. The question though is how direct that thing, in. product review should be niche. vote a group of professionals who post and form a committee, call it labac labs. Seems logical to start with books, movies, and music.
posted by clavdivs at 10:40 PM on February 2 [6 favorites]


I met somebody earlier this week who has built this incredible community Q&A app for startup founders. They’d done absolutely loads of research to build something useful and new for a specific online niche. They’d never heard of MeFi or AskMe; it blew their mind (and mine).

I say this not because I think MeFi should invest in this app (or vv) or in creating something new, but rather to highlight that you all already have lots of capital and vetted innovation that is of high value and possibly unseen.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:21 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of a recent post by John Gruber:

> I wish they had a rival that focused less on price. Wirecutter recommendations are very often skewed to the best low-priced product, not the best product in a category, period. I want domain experts to tell me the best products

I point this out because it highlights a tension in product review approaches that we’d need to at least take into account when doing this project. “What circumstances made this an excellent choice for me?” is often left unasked and unanswered, and it’s at the core of reviews. (Begin example.)

I have a Bonavita carafe/cup brewer that allows me to reliably make an excellent 4oz cup of drip coffee, which my fancy pourover normal-sized Chemex is a lot less great at. The Chemex makes a notably better 10oz cup of coffee, and I found with the Chemex Otto that it does poorly at less than about 20g of ground coffee because the spray nozzles are so far apart. So right there, I have three product reviews in hand, and I can make a case for each of them under different circumstances. I can’t easily separate them, because it’s more like a flowchart than “get X, it’s the best”. But I’m deeply invested and I would spend hours assembling a How To Pragmatically Decide Whether To And How To Make Great Coffee With What Gear guide. (End example.)

Would that sort of thing fit into this idea somehow? Would anyone care if I wrote it?
posted by Callisto Prime at 12:53 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


This sounds like the perfect thing for projects if someone wants to take it and run with it. If someone loves it they'll post it to the blue and it could take off!
posted by freethefeet at 1:14 AM on February 3


Puts down the bong, dons the fedora.

You take the known sample posts that you have from the volunteer list keepers. You run a word frequency and trigram sort of analysis on the titles, the tags, and the words in the post. Then you check the Amazon link count and other link counts. You now have some statistics to find the most common common of each. Now you write a cron job to run in the slower times of Metafilter CPU/Database usage that processes the new posts/comments since the last time it was run. You take the hits that match some tweaked a bit selection criteria and sort them by confidence and send them to your new volunteers to check. The vote is counted and you keep lowering the threshold on the verify part when you're reasonably satisfied that the thing mostly can find "product recommendation" things that even aren't tagged properly. Maybe auto adjust the tags.

Then you spend some time slowly also running the thing over the old posts that might have not been caught by the volunteers and check them again. You do a bit more sorta manual stuff to categorize things that you could generate your lists in categories of sorts based on words in their titles or in the question and spurt back out a list of past posts that are likely related in a sort of way based on the words you used.

Nightly cron job. Front end junk. The search/match/previously thing. Some DB things like a few need more tables for this thing.

Shouldn't be that hard to try.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:25 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I will occasionally search for recommendations on ask. Like, I will find a post about where to print stickers or t-shirts. Often there is something of a consensus, or there will be useful info about a company’s business practices or owners. Like Amazon reviews that aren’t being manipulated.

I don’t really see Metafilter becoming a successful product review site, at least not without basically the same effort as spinning one up from scratch. I only look for recommendations because I am already here and have a certain level of confidence in ask. Discoverability on product search terms would probably be low, and the site doesn’t necessarily look like he kind of place to get that info. Plus, is there a critical mass of people willing to produce useful reviews?

Maybe a way to test the waters would be to encourage people to make product recommendation asks and feature successful ones in the sidebar. Or do a Pepsi Blue post on the main page where people are encouraged to talk about a great product, or one that sucks.
posted by snofoam at 3:40 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


(My main thought is that it isn’t realistic to bring in new users with reviews, but highlighting the existing recommendation capabilities of ask might get existing members to engage more, which is a plus if it isn’t taking up a lot of resources.)
posted by snofoam at 3:43 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Front page posts that are round-ups of product questions/recs from AskMe, based on theme? Easy enough...
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:41 AM on February 3


To my shock, MeFi Labs, linked above, DOES have images?!? What the wha?
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:46 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Promoting "Best Answers" as recommendations is going to go poorly I think. Not only is it easily gamed if Metafilter Recommends ever became popular but the Best Answer is going vary wildly in most cases depending on who is handing it out and they are mostly going to suffer from the lack of long term experience idenitified as one of the new failing of Wirecutter.

Plus most people who are marking best answer haven't the financial resources to actually purchase multiple examples of anything but the most trivial of products (I certainly don't) to actually be able to put IRL experience behind their Best Answer.
posted by Mitheral at 6:09 AM on February 3 [5 favorites]


Promoting "Best Answers" as recommendations is going to go poorly I think.

Yeah, that seems likely to me. OTOH, what about an "I bought" tag?

Also, AskMe's stay open for a long time to allow follow-up, and get a reminder email about marking them as resolved -- and both of these mechanisms on a product question would let the OP circle back to say what they eventually chose and whether or not they are satisfied.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:49 AM on February 3


Perhaps any post tagged with "Recommendation" or using a new "Recommendation" catagory could be sent a MeMail six months later asking for a "Did you buy it? Do you like it?" follow-up post.

There could also be a "Recommendation" tab on AskMe that listed all the recent recommendation questions.
posted by bondcliff at 7:31 AM on February 3 [5 favorites]


The thing that made the original Wirecutter so good was a pretty systematic - I think of it as a little less Consumer Reports and a little more J. Kenji López-Alt/test kitchen - testing process, of multiple versions of a thing, by one person, who was also a communicative writer in the style generally used for product testing results. That is a massive amount of labor that should not be done for free and should not be done by volunteers, because of the commitment.

If this is a suggestion to beef up SEO on recommendations (I routinely get Ask up pretty high in my results if the product is actually fully-named in the post and comments), enhanced sidebar-ing, and maybe deliberately do recommendation threads maybe with a suggested comment format like "I like/dislike X because _my circumstances_ and my experience was _this_" or whatever? Seems fair and a productive idea. The one thing that even good product recommendations tend to miss is "this has particular advantages to parents who don't drive and have small children/shift-workers prone to migraines/French-speaking hikers/etc" because most review-writers are younger white professional writers.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:53 AM on February 3 [10 favorites]


I would be okay with a quarterly “Reader, I Bought It” roundup post where we can re-link the original Ask and discuss the merits of the thing recommended and purchased.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:06 AM on February 3 [13 favorites]


This seems to me like something that could be really good for Metafilter. Not a way to get new users, not any attempt at being a comprehensive site like Wirecutter. But solely as a way to increase Metafilter income, and maybe even get it higher in search rankings. A site where people could read intelligent and informed information about specific products and brands of products.

To answer cortex's questions - a subsite of MeFi specifically aimed at non-members (for reading, not posting). Users could put up a post for any kind of product, and then comments on that post would be reviews of specific instances of that product, or general useful suggestions about the product.

For example, someone puts up a post entitied Toaster Ovens. People review the Breville, Panasonic, Cuisinsart, etc., as comments, but also suggestions like that an air fryer can do everything a toaster oven can, and more. Again, not trying to be complete or comprehensive, but just more trustworthy reviews and useful information than can be found on Amazon or other sites.

Any Amazon links would have Metafilter's affiliate code added, just like now. This would help Metafilter income, but also stop people from trying to use it to their own advantage.

Users/posters/commenters would be discouraged from adding MeFi in-jokes, or obscure/clever references that don't add to the usefulness of the post. It would need to be moderated, but maybe that could even be the one case where volunteer mods might make sense.

I don't think this would take much, if anything, that doesn't already exist in Metafilter. It could even be a different site (as in, not consumer.metafileter.com, but someothername.com), with the affiliate inccome going to Metafilter, though that probably wouldn't help with search ranking, and maybe get less input from current MeFites.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 11:36 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


what about an "I bought" tag

I, Bot

Come for the product placement, stay for the advertising algorithm murder mystery.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:52 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


Please call it RecMe.
posted by emelenjr at 12:55 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


RecMe? Damn near killed me!

I would be okay with a quarterly “Reader, I Bought It” roundup post where we can re-link the original Ask and discuss the merits of the thing recommended and purchased.

This is seriously a good idea--it ties into the kind of varyingly-loosely-structured freer threads that have been in place for awhile. "For today's chat, we're inviting any Mefites who've had past product-related AskMe's to share any feedback and experiences from them," etc.
posted by Drastic at 1:37 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


When I tell people about MeFi I say "it's like show and tell for the internet". Combine FanFare and AskMe and make Show and Tell. This is my telescope. There are many like it, but this one is mine. So what's the consensus kitchen shears these days?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:12 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


It feels like half of my questions on AskMe are looking for product recommendations. I trust the people here way more than anyone else on the internet.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:54 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


> make Show and Tell

“Show and Sell” has a nice ring to it.
posted by Callisto Prime at 12:53 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Before the holidays, I posted book and game FPPs with links to get the ball rolling, but I hoped the threads would turn into further recommendations/disrecommendations for gift shopping--they did, and I actually did use those recs. I don't know how well FPPs about, like, floor lamps would go (more generously, home furnishings, etc.), but it'd be interesting to see stuff like that on the front page.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:12 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


So what's the consensus kitchen shears these days?

I bought these Oxo shears a few years ago, and they're the best kitchen shears I've ever had.

They come apart for washing, which is a major plus for me. You might need something a little bigger if you cut through more bones than I do. You probably don't need a built-in bottle opener, because don't you already have a bottle opener?
posted by box at 8:47 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Are they "buy it for life" scissors? I've been eyeing a pair from Ernest Wright, and figure, you know, got that scissor thing sorted out for good.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:01 AM on February 4


No--they have one microserrated blade that can't be sharpened with home equipment.

This might be the BI4L option.
posted by box at 9:27 AM on February 4


You might need something a little bigger if you cut through more bones than I do.

They’re a bit uni-tasky, but the Oxo poultry shears have been magnificent so far.
posted by zamboni at 10:03 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I would use the heck out of this. I do a ton of "site:ask.metafilter.com $thing_i_need" searches. I like still_wears_a_hat's idea. I feel like a separate subsite could get more eyeballs and more specialization than sifting through tags on askme. A "recommendation_request" askme category that gets posted to ask but also to a subsite could be nice. It would also make me feel less bad if I wanted to post a "This was asked in 2019 but what's the best X in 2022?"
posted by ghostbikes at 10:50 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I don't know how well FPPs about, like, floor lamps would go (more generously, home furnishings, etc.)

I don't know either, but I recently acquired a surprisingly nice looking blue and brass floor lamp for under $120 that I would gladly recommend.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:27 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Your lamp is relevant to my interests. Please make a post about it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:59 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I want to know what lamp it is!
posted by holborne at 4:10 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I wanna know what lamp is. I want you to show me.
posted by box at 4:31 PM on February 4 [9 favorites]


I don't know why I felt like I needed to sing that, but I felt like I needed to sing that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:30 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


It takes a good lamp to read between the lines. You'll need it when you're older.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:25 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Sorry for the delay everyone, I had to take a little time.

A little time to think things over.

Lamp.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:38 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


We like the Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner. You push down to make it whirl. Much better than those older ones where you pull a string to make it whirl.
posted by mono blanco at 9:04 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]




Can't stop now, I've traveled so far
To change this lonely lamp
posted by chavenet at 3:42 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


This Town Has Spent 11 Years Planning a 60 Foot Lava Lamp.
posted by clavdivs at 9:21 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Mostly serious.
One manager type to bridge the gap between herding cats and high up folk.
One server hopefully donated somehow to play on.
Volunteers.
NDA.... manager managed timely sanitized DB dump, some authn/authz things and some current COBOL dev (said only a tiny bin snarkily) to get the basics in place.
Then there is a live and active "labs" server that when there are pony requests One could say "well volunteered, contact manager" and day or so old database of only needed stuff is available and go nuts.
If it's good, it migrates to the real MeFi site, a bit of linking is nothing is mostly nothing on both sides.
The server is VM like split between the side that isn't and the side that is MeFi.

Sorta FOSS model with manager for managing interference between high and volunteer levels. AKA the "Well Volunteered" answer but with "here's an account, the (day(s)) old data you get (without some reason), and hosting.

One manager type, One server, Available sanitized data, See what people come up with.

----

I have a grudge-not-grudge over my attempt a decade ago to setup a MeFi chat that only lasted a year. Why bother?

Wrangle a server that can be split into two VM s sort of isolation, get acceptable DB dumps on a reasonable schedule, navigate the authentication thing, get somebody between you and them to manage that thing,

It might not be that hard to get a MeFi Labs herd of cats going if they could have easy access to the DB (even sanitized and a day late) that they *don't* have to host themselves.

---
Anyways, best guess? Not used to working in a "buy WTF" budget constraint.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:09 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I don't know about that lamp.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:20 AM on February 6


I bought these Oxo shears a few years ago, and they're the best kitchen shears I've ever had.

Late to the party, but I used those OXO shears to spatchcock a whole turkey last Thanksgiving. They are the best. Most of what OXO makes is really very good -- so much so that when there's a dud product you can tell because the reviews are full of incredulous disappointment.

Anyway, I have pretty good places to go for kitchen equipment reviews, but buying electronics seems like crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. I need to remember to check MeFi more often.
posted by PearlRose at 1:19 PM on February 23


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