MetaFilter: A Utopia of Rules? May 15, 2022 1:16 PM   Subscribe

This (quite positive) write up of MetaFilter came into my inbox this morning via the New_ Public newsletter. Featuring some thoughtful quotes from some guy "Millard". Enjoy!
posted by ropeladder to MetaFilter-Related at 1:16 PM (54 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

This is a good piece that I think captures what makes this place special. Been a fan of New__Public for awhile now (highly recommend signing up or putting it in your RSS reader); glad this piece didn't fall into that trap of the journalist being really good until they cover your field.
posted by General Malaise at 4:03 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Incredible write-up of Metafilter! Exactly why I've loved it here for decades. 😻
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:06 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Yes, MetaFilter itself is the best of the web.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:14 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Yep, we're awesome.
posted by HotToddy at 7:53 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


alternately, we're awful but rather like democracy, better than the alternatives.
posted by philip-random at 8:42 PM on May 15 [10 favorites]


That was a refreshing contrast to the doom-and-gloom about MeFi (from within) that's been so ubiquitous for a (long) while.

I very strongly disagree with the "MeFi is overmoderated" position, as well as the "the mods keep being awful" position, and I'm largely positive about the site — especially when I view it in the larger social media context and not against some ideal.

The only criticism or negativity I have about the site is its ongoing viability vis a vis the necessity of the high labor costs associated with maintaining the very qualities that make MetaFilter so different. I think this will be a difficult problem to solve and because of this, we're going to continue to argue about whether we really do need all this professional moderation. The expense of it can be used to bolster the arguments against it by those who dislike it regardless.

It's completely justifiable to not seek growth for its own sake; but the problem is that we do need to maintain some minimun number of active users to keep the site engaging — I feel like we're approaching that boundary. So there is an argument to be made that the status quo that this article describes may not be sustainable — people often argue that we're anachronistic (and therefore inherently unable to attract the young) and that the culture and its mores are barriers to entry. That's valid.

In my opinion, the best way forward isn't radical change, but rather carefully considered change that makes some accomodations to the reality of the situation. I suspect this will be difficult because this approach isn't very satisfying — people tend to want bold solutions that definitively solve problems. But I really believe that MetaFilter is a very good and unique site and we shouldn't fix the parts that aren't broken.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:19 PM on May 15 [40 favorites]


It's a very good and honest review (unusual in itself) and I also agree with everything Ivan Fyodorovich said. The article neatly sums up the things that are good here and these are exactly the things that are grinding us down in terms of reducing engagement - quality engagement requires resources because people suck and resources cost money that the people who suck aren't prepared to (or are genuinely unable to) dig into their pockets for.

It's a pity so many of those within the community seem to have forgotten what makes this the 'best of the web' and instead seek to pick at things they don't like.
posted by dg at 11:56 PM on May 15 [8 favorites]


That is the kind of press we need. I am guessing that it is not really high traffic, but it hits the key points that make us* good and special. A humane place for humans on the Internet.

*Or at least what we are aspiring to anyways, gripes and grumps not withstanding!
posted by Meatbomb at 2:35 AM on May 16 [8 favorites]


Meatbomb: A humane place for humans on the Internet.

Speak for yourself.
*purrs, licks tail, then jumps up and bounces across the room like mad*
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:15 AM on May 16 [11 favorites]


metametafilter: Yep, we're awesome.

I know some would disagree and have valid points, but this place has been a real respite from. . . most everything else online, especially in recent years. And, it's genuinely taught me to be far less not-awesome. There are a few ugly comments from many years ago that I now wish I could delete. But, they are also things I actually said. Learning that strangers are unlikely to respond well to incredibly dark, ironic humor and explicit criticism well when delivered out of the blue (and on the blue) is one lesson among many. I still probably still get it wrong often, but less often. Thanks!
posted by eotvos at 7:22 AM on May 16 [14 favorites]


"MetaFilter, which comes from an era of image-less forums" - pfft. It's older than that.
posted by hat_eater at 7:49 AM on May 16 [11 favorites]


I had to laugh a bit though at their definition of “a forum” as “a place to share links and talk about them”, partly because I really associate “forum” with “message board” but partly because I’d only just noticed the pinned post on the Twitter account of Whedonesque (which had been inspired by MeFi).
For clarity - when http://Whedonesque.com was around, it was a collaborative/community weblog and not a message board. Thank you.
What do Mefites generally consider this place to be?
posted by bixfrankonis at 11:13 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]


I don't miss the pile ons, and nuclear grade snark. I have worked to be a better member, and do better in my personal relations. I did learn to lurk moar, and not visit some threads. I enjoy this place. Moderation in all things, is hard on Mods, no doubt, but makes a comfortable place for the diversity, which characterizes our species.
posted by Oyéah at 1:32 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]


Thanks for sharing this great article!

I love that they mention card club!

I have been spending more time on the site after not having checked in for months. I do have posting/commenting anxiety, but I'm working on that. But the past few weeks have been much more interesting and I am chalking it up to reading more of the site and doing some projects associated with the site (Metacraft on Discord and the IRL Artist's Way project). I am going to try to continue engaging with the site like this and hopefully the anxiety will fade as I become more comfortable.

But enough about me... great article! Yay Metafilter!
posted by danabanana at 2:47 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


To me 'forum' implies subject-specificity that Metafilter lacks. Whether it's a forum about parenting, a computer game, a of a neighbourhood association, or for owners of Yamaha single-cylinder motorcycles, even when they have 'general discussion, TGIF' boards, an 'internet forum' has to be directed in a way that excludes purely free-for-all posting. Certainly it's not a hosting site for ephemera (4chan) or permanent display (flickr), and certainly it predates 'social' sites. Nor is metafilter quite similar to the really free-form websites it most resembles in era, like Reddit or del.icio.us, which by design lack a firm direction. And I've never been able to think of Metafilter as a 'community', as it's described, because that implies a set of mutual values and commitment to mutual support that don't exist, or necessarily need to. Real communities, the most valuable ones, also tend to be hard to escape or leave behind.

It's a website for posting links, answering questions, and shitposting in the comments. Why overthink it?

It's a website, it's an anachronism, it reflects the passage of time and shows the fissions and fractures of the last internet decades, and old things require much much more effort and maintenance, and that's OK. Old technologies persist where people find value and cultural significance and utility in them. Old houses leak but they're still worthy. And that's why I'll be turning over my SR400 for a ride this weekend.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:52 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


“Real communities, the most valuable ones, also tend to be hard to escape or leave behind.”

...and you're saying this proves MetaFilter isn't?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:12 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Oh, come one, someone had to do it!
posted by dg at 12:58 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]


Fiasco da Gama wrote:
I've never been able to think of Metafilter as a 'community', as it's described, because that implies a set of mutual values and commitment to mutual support that don't exist, or necessarily need to.
Yup. This conversation from earlier this year, about what our mission statement would be if there were one, I think was a demonstration of that. When I talk about MetaFilter I use words like "message board", "website", "group", "users", and "participants", but try not to use "community," because I agree with Nick Bergson-Shilcock: "Having a genuine community requires that people know the other people around them, and that everyone shares some fundamental values and purpose." And MetaFilter has many fine qualities! As discussed in the New_ Public piece! But I'd rather reserve the word "community" for groups with more cohesion and more solidarity.

I get that other people use "community" a lot more loosely or differently, and it's not like I'm going to start barking "it's not a community! don't call it a community!" in threads on the site, but I personally use different words. And I think it's worth considering what assumptions the description subsumes.

(I wrote more about this on my blog; link's in my profile.)
posted by brainwane at 3:46 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


Don't call it a community! It's been here for years
The posts are the most, puttin' butter on toast

That was the point where I started thinking that maybe making the mission statement an LL Cool J parody was not the best idea.
posted by box at 5:31 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]


See the wisdom from mistakes in our past. Hear the younger generation ask, "why do I feel this way?"

(More silly song references.)
posted by eotvos at 9:51 AM on May 17


That was the point where I started thinking that maybe making the mission statement an LL Cool J parody was not the best idea.

Nonono, go on, you got this!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:19 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


I've never been able to think of Metafilter as a 'community', as it's described, because that implies a set of mutual values and commitment to mutual support that don't exist, or necessarily need to.

That describes an intentional community. We are a collection of people who hang out at this location and interact with each other, and I think that makes a different kind of community, more gathered than intentional.

I think of metafilter as a forum, because it looks like a forum and it feels like a forum.

I like it here. Thanks everyone.
posted by plonkee at 12:07 PM on May 17 [11 favorites]


I very strongly disagree with the "MeFi is overmoderated" position, as well as the "the mods keep being awful" position, and I'm largely positive about the site — especially when I view it in the larger social media context and not against some ideal.

Anyone who read Cortex's and Eyebrow McGee's [self-deleted in the case of the latter] comments tearing into Miko might be less inclined to agree. Having and using the power to prune their own trash talk before piling on or actually 86'ing a member they personally dislike is one less than ideal habit to which I hope present and future owners and moderators do not become accustomed.
posted by y2karl at 8:33 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]


Completely off topic but something about which I am still totally buzzed is this:

I took a #9 bus down Broadway to the Lowe's in Rainer Valley to buy some bundles of six foot bamboo sticks for my pots of Heavenly Blue morning glories and old fashioned sweet peas to climb and when it crested First Hill by Swedish Hospital, I glanced out the windshield to see what looked like a B-29 Superfortress turning to land at Boeing Field. I could not believe my eyes. So I emailed to ask the Museum of Flight to see if I had seen what I thought I saw. I had.

The rides -- Each B-29 Doc Flight Experience flight has nine seats: Bombardier ($1,500), Cockpit/Pilot Observer ($1,200), Navigator ($1,200) and six Gunner seats ($600 each) --
had been OMFG! sold out.

Why I can't even to the Nth power. That is far too rich for my taste in more ways than one.
posted by y2karl at 9:50 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


plonkee: We are a collection of people who hang out at this location and interact with each other, and I think that makes a different kind of community, more gathered than intentional.

I grew up, for most of my childhood, on an island. Island communities contain anyone who finds themselves, by dint of birth or boat, living on that piece of water-lapped rock. Because of that upbringing, I can’t but help to think of MetaFilter in those terms, a bunch of folks who’ve found this little island in the endless ocean of the internet. To me, that’s the sort of community we seem like we are.
posted by Kattullus at 12:57 AM on May 18 [40 favorites]


Kattullus, I love that. I’m keeping this image in mind. Thank you.
posted by mochapickle at 4:54 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Indeed.
posted by y2karl at 4:58 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Even if some of us sit all day on the rock by the shore looking at the waves, it does not necessarily mean they long to leave. Perhaps they long for the past. Or just like the sound of the waves.

It's a good place to look at the ocean.
posted by hat_eater at 6:26 AM on May 18 [5 favorites]


"then jumps up and bounces across the room like mad"

I read that as "flounces"... Time for new glasses.

"a different kind of community, more gathered than intentional"

For me, MeFi has been the closest I have ever come to finding my "Callahan's Place". It has definately made me a better person.
posted by rozcakj at 8:29 AM on May 18 [8 favorites]


Not a community? Like, we're not a community if we're not all into stamp collecting or whatever? I live in a small town and Metafilter has all the same elements of community that my IRL one does--we're all here, for one thing, some of us are better friends than others, some of us organize others into groups, some of us are occasionally assholes or just having a rough time, some of us get together and have babies, some of us check out for a while then come back, etc., but the main thing is that we all choose to keep coming back year in and year out and engaging with one another. How is that not a community? I mean we're not here for the purpose of forming a community, like a commune is, and we're not here for the purpose of sharing an interest, like Ravelry. We're here because we'd rather be here than somewhere else. Same as a small town, or an island.
posted by HotToddy at 9:57 AM on May 18 [23 favorites]


I wouldn't have an online home if I didn't have MetaFilter. If this isn't a community (after engaging with CD swaps and cookie exchanges and secret quonzars and decades of squabbling and rubbing raw and smoothing over and finding coming ground)... then I'm not sure what would be.

I'm sure this isn't 100% true, but I sort of feel like if I were traveling to a city and didn't know anyone, I could reach out here on MetaFilter and find someone to share a meal with or whatever. That's a community.
posted by hippybear at 4:32 PM on May 18 [13 favorites]


You're not the only one who feels that way hippybear. Any of us could probably show up in a city where we know no one and put up an AskMe or IRL and meet for a meal and/or coffee. Simply by members of the same website.

That's pretty great. It may not be unique, but it's still pretty great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:11 PM on May 18 [9 favorites]


I have had sex with at least two Mefites.
We’re a community.
posted by Ryvar at 6:27 PM on May 18 [5 favorites]


There is a cabal!
posted by biogeo at 6:32 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


I also have had sex with at least two Mefites! And neither of them was Ryvar!
posted by hippybear at 7:02 PM on May 18 [6 favorites]


I appreciate brainwane's explanation for not wanting to use the word "community" to describe MetaFilter. It's a word with a spectrum of meanings, and not everyone uses it in the same way. That said, I'd certainly describe my neighborhood as a community. But if a community is characterized by knowing the people around you, and sharing values and purpose, I'd say that while that certainly applies to some of my neighbors, I feel like I know more Mefites than neighbors, and have a better sense of the values and purpose of Metafilter than I do of my neighborhood.

Anyway, I certainly wouldn't begrudge anyone for seeing it differently than me.
posted by biogeo at 7:04 PM on May 18 [5 favorites]


Pfft. I can extrapolate all kinds of things from a wide variety of sample sizes.

In seriousness: this place is what keeps me from ever getting sucked into whatever the latest hate-fueled pipeline for white dudes is, and that goes double during the cycles when my bipolar goes seriously haywire for an extended period (as it sometimes does, currently is, and - having crossed 40 with no letup - likely always will). It keeps me anchored and out of the ideological spaces I grew up in (evangelical fundamentalist missionaries and people who chain themselves to Planned Parenthood doors).

As much as I sometimes hate this place it is probably the single largest - or at least most consistent - contributor to my winding up somewhere in the general vicinity of a decent human or having any post-religious conception of what that means. It forces me to consider perspectives that society would love to make it easy for me to ignore. It taught me empathy wasn’t something to sneer at.

Now that I’m blathering about it… I think Metafilter kind of stepped into the role that church had previously held? Like, this is where I go to learn how to be a better person from people further along the path than I am, discover things my peers find interesting, overhear bits of gossip and sometimes witness over the top melodrama. I don’t always wanna or can’t always deal but on average I’m here significantly more than I’m not, and I’m learning.

And while that’s just the role Metafilter plays in my own life, church is absolutely a community, so this place at minimum has the capacity to be one.
posted by Ryvar at 7:29 PM on May 18 [15 favorites]


To my knowledge I have not had sex with any Mefites. I got all my online community sex-having out of my system pre-MeFi.
posted by bixfrankonis at 11:01 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Does masturbation count for having sex with a mefite? Asking for another mefite.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:11 AM on May 19 [6 favorites]

To my knowledge I have not had sex with any Mefites.
Hehe. I just asked someone exactly this question two days ago. (To be clear, the question I asked was, "are you on metafilter," not the rather disturbing inverse possibility.) The specific answer is no, and I think the answer in general is probably no, but I was actually a little surprised given the synchronicity of recent topics of conversation. I guess we're all swimming in the same soup, even if there's more than one pot. (In case I've recruited a new member, hi!)
posted by eotvos at 9:50 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Does masturbation count for having sex with a mefite? Asking for another mefite.

Only as long as one hand knows not what the other is doing.
posted by y2karl at 1:07 PM on May 19

Only as long as one hand knows not what the other is doing.
First, be smart from the very beginning. . .


(Sorry. All I do now here, it seems, is make incredibly dark inside jokes. I hope it's harmless in these threads.)
posted by eotvos at 3:16 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


As long as the mods don't download the new Android Milgram app and taze us all into line over our phones.
posted by y2karl at 7:33 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


iPhone user here! I'm thoroughly abused by my phone and its company already!
posted by hippybear at 8:00 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I've been fucking with everybody from the get-go.


Just kidding. Only those whose astrological sign rhymes with the last thing they ate and the colour of their underwear.
posted by philip-random at 9:10 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I'm sure you're a lovely person, philip-random, but I've got shit to do today, so I'm kind of glad I had dessert last night. (I'm very surprised to discover your list is astonishingly close to being true, given a rather liberal, but not unreasonable, definition of "the colour.")
posted by eotvos at 7:29 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


What do Mefites generally consider this place to be?

The plastic.com it's ok to like.
posted by flabdablet at 11:16 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


What do Mefites generally consider this place to be?

This, of course.
posted by y2karl at 11:35 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


alternately a rigorous and committed match of forty-three [person] Squamish
posted by philip-random at 12:01 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Yay, Metafilter! That is all.

(MeFite-MeFite sexing? Well, I never!)
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 10:19 PM on May 20


Metafilter is so much healthier and less toxic than Reddit, or what have you. I wish there was a way to make society and politics work like work like MeFi.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:39 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I've been here every day since sometime in 2000 or early 2001. I missed the old account creation backdoor and didn't join until 2004. Even though I don't comment or interact much, this place is my internet home, y'all're my internet family, and I'm grateful to be a part of this community.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:07 PM on May 22 [8 favorites]

I wish there was a way to make society and politics work like work like MeFi.
Agreed. Sadly, I expect that involves banning people and deleting things. Which I'd support if any of our mods were elected, but worry about in general.
posted by eotvos at 5:35 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


What do Mefites generally consider this place to be?
Home
posted by dg at 3:35 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


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