A MetaFilter User Survey May 23, 2022 9:57 AM   Subscribe

The MetaFilter Transition Team (TT) is excited and pleased to announce a MetaFilter User Survey (May, 2022). This is the first major step the TT is taking to help MetaFilter be more sustainable and community-driven.

About the survey: The Transition Team (TT) is tasked with setting up a (probably) volunteer board, committee, or similarly-structured group to assist with running MetaFilter. This future group (which is NOT the Transition Team) will be prioritizing and facilitating changes requested by the community. This might include finding ways to increase moderator coverage, making changes to the site’s code, working through site policy/posting issues, site accessibility, discoverability (sidebar, newsletters, et cetera), and site structure (subsites). It will not be taking on any moderation duties, nor setting site policy itself, though it may work with the moderation team on those policies.

We’ve been internally referring to this future group as the Steering Committee (SC), so we’ll use that phrase going forward here, but if there’s another name you think would better capture the spirit please let us know! :)

We’ve set up this survey to help figure out what the community is most interested in, as that may have significant structural implications for the SC. If everyone’s primarily interested in code changes, having SC members who have a lot of experience with that would make more sense. If everyone’s primarily interested in more moderation coverage, having SC members able to figure out how to do the financing and hiring for those positions would seem to be the priority.

The survey isn’t explicitly about the SC; we want this to be a ground-up process, so finding out what’s most important to the community will be a large part of what dictates what that group looks like and how it functions.

The survey is being run through Google Forms. Our inbox - metafiltertransitionteam@gmail.com - is a Gmail account. We may not have the bandwidth to facilitate other-channel submissions; stay tuned to this thread and we’ll try and work something out if we’re able. We are not collecting emails or usernames. (NOTE: if you're signed into Gmail/Google, the form will recognize that, but we aren't collecting those and won't see them)

This will work best with honest answers, but please word them as kindly as possible; we’re human beings who will be reading all of these responses.

Timeline: The survey will be open from May 23, 2022 to June 12, 2022 at 12 midnight GMT (7am on June 13 EST). We’ll try and first-draft process all of the responses in about a month. We’ll share an anonymous, aggregated summary of the responses on July 17, 2022. The survey data - the raw responses - will all be deleted November 30, 2022.

The TT will be checking on this post periodically -- at least once a day for the first week of the survey, possibly a little less frequently after that. If you have questions about the survey, please consider making a comment here, so that we can respond publicly and hopefully share that information with everyone. If you’re not comfortable with that, feel free to email or MeMail as well, but it may not be seen as quickly.

We strongly encourage you to share the link to the survey with others who care about MetaFilter and want to participate in this process.

With that background/context, here’s the link to the survey.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to fill this survey out. :)

Lastly, here’s the Transition Team’s log of activities. We'll be updating this site with major developments, as well as making MetaTalk posts.
posted by curious nu to MetaFilter-Related at 9:57 AM (76 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

Thank you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:04 AM on May 23


Maybe it’s in the works but should probably get a banner notification for this!
posted by Going To Maine at 10:09 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]


It is in the works, correct!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:10 AM on May 23


Mod note: Banner added!
posted by loup (staff) at 10:14 AM on May 23 [4 favorites]


stay tuned to this thread and we’ll try and work something out if we’re able.

Thank you, I will do that.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:27 AM on May 23


These are wonderful developments! Thank you for all your hard & valuable work!
posted by bleep at 10:42 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Done. Have fun reading through the many lengthy responses I’m sure you will receive. (1-3 sentences? Girl have you heard of this invention called the semicolon?)
posted by Mizu at 12:17 PM on May 23 [26 favorites]


Just a note on the naming of the Steering Committee: Whatever the name ultimately chosen, it should reflect the group's actual power. If they literally have the power to steer (guide, direct) policy and site strategy, that name works. If they will work in more of an advisory capacity, then Advisory Committee (or similar) may be a better name. It can become difficult for both committee members and community members when a committee is perceived as having more structural power than it actually does.
posted by Miko at 12:28 PM on May 23 [30 favorites]


That’s a really good suggestion, thanks!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:31 PM on May 23


Done. Thank you!!!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:37 PM on May 23


I completed the survey, and it only hurt a little! Would recommend.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 2:01 PM on May 23


Should the answers to the survey be limited to experiences on the Metafilter community only? Or also address the other communities here of AskMeFi, Fanfare and Metatalk?
posted by beaning at 2:32 PM on May 23


My answers were for the entire MetaFilter Multiverse.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:34 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]


Yes, they're definitely intended for the entire site. :)
posted by curious nu at 2:46 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Aww come on, naming, we should vote, I propose "Mini-Illuminati"

...anyway, this is great, good luck and have fun along the way!
posted by sammyo at 2:47 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Yes actually that is a little vague. I even addressed it in one of my responses how the different tones needed for Metafilter vs AskMe make things confusing, and had to think for a while how to specify I was talking about the blue or other subsites. I don’t think of them as different communities, but they are like Venn diagrams and I think clarifying the intention might make it more straightforward for people to answer the survey instead of someone thinking they aren’t being asked for their thoughts because they rarely interact with the front page.
posted by Mizu at 3:08 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


I completed the survey.

BUT AT WHAT COST???
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:08 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


Any name other than "The Cabal" is a non-starter.

I started the survey and realized that I needed to think a lot more about what I would like to see this site become, so closed it and will come back to it when I have some thoughts better formulated.
posted by briank at 4:16 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


Done and done.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:44 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Done and very concisely too, thanks to my horror of using too many commas (and brackets).
posted by h00py at 5:08 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


I did it and it asked all the questions I could have wanted to be asked but not too many and it was nice. Thank you for doing this!
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 5:12 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]

The survey data - the raw responses - will all be deleted
I'm hoping for the ritual burning of some gigantic wicker figure made of data to lead us to prosperity and good vibes for the new year
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:46 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


Any name other than "The Cabal" is a non-starter.
Agreed. it would also answer the long-standing question of whether there is, in fact, a cabal.
posted by dg at 6:57 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


it would also answer the long-standing question of whether there is, in fact, a cabal.

I have it on good authority* there is no cabal.

*also not a cabal
posted by curious nu at 7:38 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


That was fun to complete! I do enjoy a good survey! I hope my answers were not too long and that they will be helpful.

Thanks, TT!!!
posted by danabanana at 7:48 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I did the thing and mostly didn’t ramble or complain. I hope it helps the Steering Cabal.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:04 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


👉🍔🚫👥
posted by clavdivs at 10:45 PM on May 23


Thank you!
posted by Meatbomb at 7:06 AM on May 24


I feel like I am a very low-need member, so answered the survey in case it helps to have that voice to balance those with very strong feelings and many ideas. We're out here too, the folks who just bumble along with the site as it is.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:05 AM on May 24 [38 favorites]


My preferred name for the steering committee is Hair Club for Men.
posted by snofoam at 11:34 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Thanks for including it on the banner, I wouldn't have noticed it otherwise! Done.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:03 PM on May 24 [3 favorites]


Can we answer for each of our user names or each of our personalities?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:28 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this. Are you likely to quote individual responses? I see that you will anonymise what you publish, but can't see that you've said whether you will use direct quotes.
posted by paduasoy at 12:29 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]




We haven't discussed it either way, but you can be sure that we will now! But overall I can't imagine quoting anything that refers to specific situation. If people are worried about it and feel quoting would impact on whether they answer the survey or particular questions, then we'd probably not quotes at all.

Is there a particular concern you have?

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:37 PM on May 24


Can we answer for each of our user names or each of our personalities?

I figure you're joking but please don't do that. We're gonna have ton of responses to go through it seems, so we'd appreciate if y'all kept it to your a single person filling out the survey, thank you!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:40 PM on May 24 [5 favorites]


The user survey banner doesn't show up if you're not logged in. Also, I thought there was an intention to spread word about the survey through email to reach former or less active users (but I wasn't staying on top of the previous survey thread). Was the decision ultimately not to do that?
posted by trig at 1:13 PM on May 24


We may not have the bandwidth to facilitate other-channel submissions; stay tuned to this thread and we’ll try and work something out if we’re able.

To clarify, you don't actually need to have or be logged in to a Google account in order to submit the form, right?
posted by trig at 1:16 PM on May 24


Sorry for the serial commenting! Q9 on the survey (the only one that's required) indicates that the survey is intended not just for current/former members but also for people who've never even had an account. That's not something I would have assumed at the start of the survey; I never would have bothered reading all the way down to the ninth question if I didn't think I was the target audience. If you're hoping to get more responses from non-members maybe it would make sense to say something to that effect at the top of the survey, and/or in the banner for people who aren't logged in?
posted by trig at 1:21 PM on May 24 [5 favorites]


The user survey banner doesn't show up if you're not logged in.
Will check with the mods about that, thanks for pointing out.
Also, I thought there was an intention to spread word about the survey through email to reach former or less active users (but I wasn't staying on top of the previous survey thread). Was the decision ultimately not to do that?

The thought was to do a mass MeFiMail, but evidently that's not technically possible and in retrospect that's probably a good thing.

Otherwise, the survey will be up for three weeks so that should be, IMO, plenty of time to gather responses from various people.

To clarify, you don't actually need to have or be logged in to a Google account in order to submit the form, right?

Correct, you don't need to be logged into Google to answer the survey.

I never would have bothered reading all the way down to the ninth question if I didn't think I was the target audience.

The target audience is MetaFilter users, so you're fine! Thanks for answering!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:23 PM on May 24 [4 favorites]


Question 9 is there because we're encouraging people to share, and it's fine if people are past members or prospective members and we do want to have the capacity to look at any differences in answers. But that doesn't mean that the survey is not meant primarily for members - it is.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:24 PM on May 24 [4 favorites]


Wow, thanks for the quick responses!
Cool, I thought the plan was to try to reach out to former members, which is why email had been brought up in the previous thread (I think). But current members is a fine target too.
posted by trig at 1:27 PM on May 24


It’s totally fine for any user to pass the link on to any former members. It’s actually encouraged!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:32 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Personal opinion: I think this survey will probably spin off other surveys including reaching out to past members - if indeed we can. There would be an issue with contacting people who, for example, have closed their accounts; I can't see using site-based information to try to reach out to them, that could be a significant privacy violation. But this is a very off-the-cuff response.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:33 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


The survey will be open from May 23, 2022 to June 12, 2022 at 12 midnight GMT (7am on June 13 EST).
I spent four years at uni studying maths, then more years fighting date-time bugs in software. Can someone back up wtaf this means?

2022-06-13 00:00:00 GMT/UTC is 2022-06-12 19:00:00 EST/UTC-5 because GMT is UTC while EST is UTC-5. (We're saved from adjusting for daylight savings.)
First, can someone confirm, and second do the edit?
posted by k3ninho at 1:48 PM on May 24


I'm just curious, but how are you going to analyze the data. Like do you have someone on the committee who knows how to analyze qualitative data? Do you have qualitative analysis software? I was expecting more closed-ended questions, not because I think that's better for what you're doing, but just because the analysis would be so much easier.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:09 PM on May 24 [5 favorites]


Filling out the survey was easy & fun. Thanks!
posted by kingless at 2:47 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


To address your questions If only I had a penguin...

I think to summarize my personal understanding, at this stage we wanted to let themes emerge rather than try to create themes or categories from the start. Obviously we can't get away from assumptions but we wanted to minimize them at this stage. There was some great advice from one of the members of the TT who has done research and may or may not want to speak up and who has had to take a step back in time commitment since.

For analysis, what we've discussed is that we'll probably either go through a set of the data together to develop a way to sort/code responses, or one of us might take that on and then develop guidelines, and then divide up the sorting work, setting aside outlier responses in case things come up that need discussion or are particularly interesting.

I don't personally see us trying to make decisions at this point on fine details or trying to tease out something in a way that y but more to help structure the priorities for the next team and suggest some areas of strength and some that aren't.

Also on a personal note: I've done a small amount of analysis as part of a design certificate, ad hoc user research like focus groups and via third-party research reports, and used surveys and exit interviews to tweak programs. I also grew up helping sort data for a survey research academic family member (and learned to print on punch cards:)), so I both have done it, and know how upsetting the processes I've used at work would be to that academic individual. :)

But I also think that gathering and paying attention to information from people who use/love/hate/etc. a thing is almost always better than almost any alternative even if it's a slog or you know your insights are like, not at the level of someone with access to the best minds at [Ideo/Frog/whatever] could achieve.

So for me personally (not speaking for the TT at all here) I'm comfortable with doing our best job coding and sorting and knowing that won't be perfect, but with the hope and expectation that it will be helpful in this process. It could be the process or future groups look back and are like "wow, that was not great," but then at least we'll have eliminated one attempt on the road to success. I personally believe it will be worth the work.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:29 PM on May 24 [14 favorites]


I spent four years at uni studying maths, then more years fighting date-time bugs in software. Can someone back up wtaf this means?

Looks like I goofed when converting and that it should read like so:

May 23, 2022 to June 12, 2022 at 12 midnight GMT (8pm EST)

Sorry about that and thanks for pointing it out!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:03 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


Thanks, warriorqueen. Yes, I agree that qualitative data are your best bet at this stage, but it's so much more work! All your (collectively to the transition team) is appreciated.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:18 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


Speaking, again purely personally, but also as an academic:

If the responses are so muddied and divided that we can only tease out a consensus by running formal statistics on the results, then that in and of itself is a more useful piece of information than working out a significance threshold. This is a preliminary survey: as much as anything else, we are using the results to get a sense for what the right questions are.

We want to hear the messiness, the conflicting feelings, the awkward and the weird and the hurt and the joyful and the hope and everything in between. We are looking, more than anything else, for patterns in direction. The odds are pretty good that if we identify patterns we'll quantify them for you, so you can see the shape of the data without risking the privacy of other people's responses. But this is an exploratory survey, not one that I expect to yield a single obvious Answer.
posted by sciatrix at 6:18 PM on May 24 [9 favorites]


Please note I didn't say anything about statistics. I asked about qualitative analysis, which is how you get a good picture of messiness, conflicted feelings etc. etc. And I don't want to put words in her mouth, but everything warriorqueen said gave me confidence that they're equipped do do qualitative analysis and find those things.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:21 PM on May 24


Are you getting a reasonable response volume?
posted by janell at 6:44 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Are you getting a reasonable response volume?

Yes.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:51 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


...but if you/anyone haven't/hasn't answered, please go ahead, we value every set of responses and are hoping for lots more. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 7:02 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


Thank you for creating and offering this survey.
posted by doctornemo at 7:18 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Can we answer for each of our user names or each of our personalities?

I figure you're joking but please don't do that. We're gonna have ton of responses to go through it seems, so we'd appreciate if y'all kept it to your a single person filling out the survey, thank you!


I'm not going to pretend it didn't cross one of my minds.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:45 PM on May 24 [5 favorites]


as a member of the sizeable exaspora, this is really well done, thanks :)
posted by Sebmojo at 10:31 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I left the Transition Team to focus on personal and work commitments, but I helped design the survey and would be happy to share some further thoughts on it.

Below is a (very simplified and rough) overview of our process for creating the survey, which resulted in more qualitative questions. I'm sure following surveys may be more of a mix of qual and quant measures, based on the data collected and the research questions being answered.

First the team ideated a bunch of questions, discussed them and explored issues. I was away on holiday during this time and didn't take part, but it looks like they all had a fantastically productive time and covered a lot of interesting ground!

From this, we then zeroed in on a list of all our pertinent research questions — these are the things we felt we really needed to know to be able to take any and all next steps. It doesn’t matter if we can’t answer them yet; we just wanted to get clear on what it is that we really need to know.

We prioritised the list and highlighted the top 3–5 questions that we needed answers to right now; the burning questions that are blocking progress.

For each research question, we assessed the best ways to seek answers, such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, analytics, past research, market research.

For the research questions that were well-suited for a survey, we came up with user questions that we could ask the MetaFilter audience. We chose and edited the best versions, keeping things simple and easily-answerable.

The Team drafted and tested a survey with a several users first, to gather feedback on improving it. Then made improvements and launched!

In sum, based on where we were at and the questions that needed answering right now, what resulted is a shorter, focussed qualitative survey. That means a lot more coding and analysis, but also better data and results to inform next steps.

Hope that's been useful!
posted by iamkimiam at 3:46 AM on May 25 [21 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher, thanks for replying about quotations. No, no specific concerns, just cautious about putting stuff online, even indirectly.
posted by paduasoy at 2:00 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


Fyi, the site banner is now visible to users who aren't logged in! Thanks frimble!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:10 PM on May 25 [6 favorites]


Done, and thanks again TT. I'm excited with how this process is unfolding.
posted by bcd at 11:08 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Filled out the survey. Not sure if that was a good idea or not, but there it is.
posted by DaveP at 6:43 PM on May 29


Curious, why would it not be a good idea?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:05 PM on May 29


Done and done! Thanks for asking :)
posted by freya_lamb at 3:59 AM on May 31


Because my engagement level with MetaFilter has been low for the past few years. So perhaps I’m the type of person you want to survey. But also, perhaps I’m just not the MetaFilter type of person. I miss things about the old site, but there a lot of things I miss that aren’t necessarily good for me, such as thick-cut BLTs, hanging out in bars, and smoking.
posted by DaveP at 12:19 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I also haven't been active in a while, and I think if MetaFilter is looking to grow its active participation, it would be good to hear from people like us who have stepped away, as it's easier to re-engage with former members than recruit new members.

I took the survey, and it felt more geared to current users than people who are less active. If it were looking for input from people who are less active, I'd imagine the survey would ask why someone is less involved, and what would bring them back.

Is there any interest or effort to reach out to "lapsed" MeFites, particularly those who were very active in past MetaTalk threads and advocating for changes that would make this more of a welcoming, safe space? Or reach out to people who have buttoned because of prior site actions (or inaction)? Otherwise, I worry the survey won't produce the range of responses that could help direct the site in ways that make more people feel welcome, but could instead enshrine the status quo that is resulting in a shrinking user base.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:51 AM on June 4 [4 favorites]


But also, perhaps I’m just not the MetaFilter type of person.

Speaking only for myself, I'm interested in hearing from anyone who wants to be "a MetaFilter type of person," however someone wants to define that for themselves. :) That could be someone who pops in once a month, or only for certain topics, or someone who spends hours a day here. And anything in-between!

Is there any interest or effort to reach out to "lapsed" MeFites, particularly those who were very active in past MetaTalk threads and advocating for changes that would make this more of a welcoming, safe space?

There's no way for us to do this directly, unfortunately, other than word-of-mouth and personal connections. We haven't asked for - and will not ask, and would not be given! - the sign-up emails for buttoned users. Some members of the TT have advertised the survey in other places, however, specifically to try and reach those folks. We've had a fair number of responses from people who marked Q9 as "I've buttoned/deleted my primary account" so some of them have found the survey and we are hearing from them.
posted by curious nu at 11:44 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Also, thank you everyone who has taken the time so far to respond!
posted by curious nu at 11:45 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Just took the survey too.

Just wanted to also say thank you: You guys (not just the un-cabal but also all the members) add so much to my life, I appreciate all that you contribute, and I am glad that there are still people like you in the world.
posted by Bigbootay. Tay! Tay! Blam! Aargh... at 11:29 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Signed, sealed and delivered thank you all! - you set useful, interesting questions. I kept it as brief as possible.
posted by unearthed at 1:56 AM on June 8


Having thought about it, I retract my implicit request / suggestion earlier that the report on the survey should avoid direct quotes. As given that answers are mostly not directly measureable, quotes may be necessary.
posted by paduasoy at 9:11 AM on June 8


I was expecting the survey to email me a copy of my answers once submitted, will it be possible to re-capture our answers? (This is not critical or anything, my memory is just shit.)
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:26 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I was expecting the survey to email me a copy of my answers once submitted, will it be possible to re-capture our answers?

No sorry, it was set up to do that. We’ll consider making that possible for the next survey though!!

As for direct quotes from answers, we have decided to avoid them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:16 PM on June 8


Just a quick note here that the survey is closed! We’ll be working over the next month to review the responses and will have another post on July 17 to share the findings.
posted by curious nu at 10:48 PM on June 13


*makes a never ending pot of coffee*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:31 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


I didn't notice the survey until yesterday and didn't realize it was closed until today. That is it's own survey response and it's accurate!
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:56 PM on June 14


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